US pilots fly Pakistan flood aid to win hearts and minds

By AFP
Published: August 11, 2010

US Army Staff and Pakistani soldiers while sitting in a helicopter, looking at the flooded areas in Swat. PHOTO: afp

GHAZI: For US combat pilots in Afghanistan, there are two reasons to visit Pakistan: to help provide aid to the millions affected by devastating floods, and to improve America’s image.

Torrential monsoon rains have lashed Pakistan for two weeks, triggering catastrophic flooding that the UN says has affected 13.8 million people, in a disaster eclipsing the 2004 tsunami that killed 220,000 across Asia.

The government says the international community has promised 92 million dollars, but it is the presence of US military helicopters that may incite the most controversy in Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is endemic.

The White House said that US helicopters have helped to save more than 1,000 lives in Pakistan. Washington has provided 35 million dollars in aid, including 436,000 meals and 12 pre-fabricated bridges.

“The primary focus of our mission is to provide food to people,” Major Daniel Rice, commanding officer of the US aviation fleet in Pakistan, told AFP.

Asked whether it would help remove misunderstandings about the United States in Pakistan, he said: “I certainly hope so.”

“We are learning from each other every day… We are talking about each other’s families as we deal together with the calamity here,” Rice added.

After being grounded because of bad weather, helicopters flew sorties on Monday evacuating people and bringing food supplies to Swat.

“We are here to help people of Pakistan… Pilots have come back saying they saw lots of smiles, waving of hands and thumbs up while delivering supplies and shifting people to safer areas… and that is a good sign,” said Rice.

The US has sent four Chinooks and two Blackhawks to Pakistan, which fly with a representative of the Pakistani military on board. Authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have warmly welcomed the US assistance.

“Floods have devastated the communications system in our province. US helicopters, in this crisis situation, have become a backbone in the relief operations,” information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP.

The lounge near the base’s apron hummed with activity as pilots of the Pakistani and US armies sat together, exchanging pleasantries and gulping tea and coffee as it rained intermittently, with low visibility outside.

“Let people of Pakistan decide about our image as we deliver supplies and carry people from flood-affected areas,” said US pilot George Kelly, adding that “very poor” weather was one of the main challenges.

Sergeant Curtis Hissong was equally upbeat. “It gives us satisfaction to deliver food supplies to Pakistanis stranded in different areas.

In flood-hit Kalam, Bahrullah Khan, 38, a teacher who has been stranded there since floods struck while he was on holiday, said the American help was a blessing.

“Pakistani helicopters evacuate army people or people of their own choice. The US helicopters in this situation are really a blessing for us.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August  11th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Azad
    Aug 11, 2010 - 4:12AM

    Good job USA!Recommend

  • Yusaf Khan
    Aug 11, 2010 - 5:39AM

    Thank you America. Pakistan will surely remember their friends who have come to help us in these dire times.Recommend

  • Aug 11, 2010 - 6:25AM

    Its difficult not to like the Americans – always jumping in for better or worse – in this case the better Recommend

  • Mirza Sheeraz
    Aug 11, 2010 - 10:06AM

    Its been very kind of US to be at front in this difficult time. Hope they are here for only relief activities….?Recommend

  • Juveria
    Aug 11, 2010 - 10:45AM

    About time they used their might to do something constructive for us. It was nice of them to help those in dire need. We need all the help and support we can get..Recommend

  • Hassan
    Aug 11, 2010 - 10:59AM

    Good deeds are good and bad are bad…..Recommend

  • Saba
    Aug 11, 2010 - 11:07AM

    ***Thankyou America for Helping US!!***

    I hope this is true spirit of HELP and nothing else. Pakistani’s are so devastated by one after the other disaster striking the land. In these hard times what disappointed me the most was; **”The Interntional Community”** has not supported Pakistan the same way as they supported during the Earthquake 2005.

    I hope they return our call for help really soon. Pakistan has put its soil at a state of war for the sake of Interntional Community… and has sacrificed so many innocent lives of Army/ Policemen and Civilians in Bomb Blasts and Anti-Terrorism efforts etc

    GOD BLESS PAKISTAN!!! And hope we come out of this crisis situation soon!Recommend

  • Aug 11, 2010 - 11:59AM

    Viva USA!!! Good is good and bad is bad. We felt deeply for the Katrina victims and you returned it for the 2005 earthquake and 2010 flood victims.
    Minus the politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the geographic divide, the common Americans and Pakistanis can be good friends and partners.
    We Pakistanis dont forget the love and affection heartily given and love to reciprocate it in whatever manner we can. We are good people and are not what we are made out to be by your agencies and bureaucrats.
    With best wishes to all the peace loving citiens.Recommend

  • Junaid
    Aug 11, 2010 - 1:45PM

    irony is they are not getting due coverage in elctronic and print media which is a shame which shows our thoughts about US are altered.
    thanks America for your help.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Aug 11, 2010 - 4:14PM

    The reason why the international community has not provided the help like 2005 is the trust level of the current set up. Last time a so-called dictator asked for help, this time a elected government (democratic) is asking for help.

    Please compare which situation was better & the image of Pakistan was better or worse back then as compared to now?

    All hail democracy!!!!!!Recommend

  • yousaf
    Aug 12, 2010 - 12:33PM

    Thanks President Obama and Ms Hillary for your generosity, however a suggestion for consideration, United States should undertake to rehabilitate the infrastrucure especially KP province and name all the roads and bridges as Friendship Bridges/RoadsRecommend

  • mak
    Aug 13, 2010 - 6:46PM

    Pakistanis appreciate all the countries that have been proactive in their assistance during this calamity. Americans have taken a timely step in spearheading the relief operations. I am sure Pakistanis and those directly affected by the floods will re-visit their attitude of dislike towards Americans and switch to a more neutral approach towards Americans. Which i feel is a huge victory for Americans in their battle to win ‘hearts and minds’ of Pakistanis. It may affect the war on terror in a positive manner — so overall a win-win. Hope they are able to save more lives!!Recommend

  • Naeem Jan
    Aug 14, 2010 - 1:05PM

    Yes…America is a great country to serve our unfortunate and helpless Pakistani Nation in the eyes of merciless flood and difficult time…Long live Obama !Recommend

  • Naeem Jan
    Aug 14, 2010 - 1:07PM

    The time has come for zardari & Nawaz to open their personal wealth for the betterment of Pakistan !Recommend

  • Ali Zaidi
    Aug 16, 2010 - 3:53PM

    While the US should be thanked for their act of kindness, the best way to win hearts and minds of Pakistani people is to stop flying drones and to stop killing innocent citizens of Pakistan; citizens that include the elderly, women and children and not just their bread-winners.

    Random acts of bombing the unsuspecting do not make you any less vicious or more humane than terrorists or suicide bombers that you want the world to think you are after.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Aug 16, 2010 - 8:57PM

    Thank you for your help America.

    @Ali Zaidi: It is the Taliban who kill innocent citizens of Pakistan, citizens that include the elderly, women and children and not just their breadwinners. The drones target these Taliban. Recommend

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