The Marine Corps has responded to the crisis in Pakistan with troops, aircraft and a host of evacuation support, and relief supplies, the service’s commandant said here today.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway recently returned from a trip to Pakistan and updated reporters on the Marines’ relief efforts in the wake of massive flooding there in a briefing at the Pentagon.
Since Aug. 12, 2,200 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have responded to the crisis, he said. And, as of this morning, eight Marine CH-46 and four CH-53 helicopters deployed to Pakistan have evacuated 3,075 people and delivered more than 650,000 pounds of cargo.
Meanwhile, the 26th MEU from the East Coast is sailing early to contribute to the disaster relief, Conway said, and the unit should arrive off the Pakistani coast by mid to late September.
The MEUs are the theater reserve for the theater commander, Conway explained. Their deployment strips the commander of some capability to respond elsewhere in the theater, he added, but noted that Marines serving in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province aren’t affected.
“We aren’t relying upon any of the MEU capacity in Helmand province to be able to continue our functions there,” he said.
The floods, however, are having an impact on Pakistan’s security. “The Pakistani leadership is consumed with responding to the aftermath of the flood disaster,” Conway said. Pakistan Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of army staff, “cautioned me that the involvement of his army in the flood relief will, for a time, detract from their efforts to secure the Pakistani frontier.”
To date, the U.S. military has delivered 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies and food, and helicopters have rescued or transported about 6,500 people.