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US Officer: Pakistan Continues to Focus on Terrorists During Flood Crisis

  • Al Pessin

The top U.S. military representative in Pakistan says the country's military remains committed to the fight against insurgents in the north and northwest, even as it deals with the impact of the flooding that has devastated much of the country.

Vice Admiral Michael LeFever says Pakistan's plan to move its military into additional areas where insurgents are active remains intact. But he says in some places the troops, insurgents and local villagers have all been affected by the flooding, and some of the military's supporting assets have been diverted to flood relief.

"It has taken some of the resources, some of the aviation resources, that would be supporting the [counter-terrorism] operations that are used to rescue people and to help," said Admiral LeFever. "But as far as the number of troops and the focus of the Pakistani military, it has not wavered in the north or in the northwest."

The admiral, who supervises U.S. military training programs in Pakistan and the military's flood relief assistance, could not say when the Pakistanis will be able to resume their campaign against the insurgents, but he said small operations are continuing even during the flood crisis.

"Last week, I think you might have noticed that they are continuing the fight in the areas," he said. "There were some insurgents killed out in the Tirah Valley by a helicopter and air strike, and so it shows me they are still very much concerned with the extremists and the operations, and they continue to do that while doing their relief operations."

Admiral LeFever says American training on security and counterinsurgency is also continuing.

The number of American military personnel in Pakistan has increased sharply from its usual level of between 100 and 200 trainers to support the 23 helicopters and two cargo aircraft that have joined the flood relief effort, at Pakistan's request. The admiral says the additional troops will leave when the relief effort is finished, as they did after the earthquake in 2005.

The admiral reports the U.S. aircraft have delivered nearly 2,000 metric tons of relief supplies and rescued nearly 13,000 people. He says U.S. forces have even delivered supplies to Quetta, in western Pakistan, a city where al-Qaida has a significant presence.

He said the slow acceptance of help by Pakistan in the early weeks of the disaster was related to problems appreciating the enormity of what was happening. And he said he is confident supplies delivered by U.S. aircraft to Pakistani distribution centers are reaching the people in need. Admiral LeFever also praised Pakistan's flood operations headquarters, saying it is coordinating with the military and civilian agencies involved and carefully planning each day's relief and rescue missions.

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