Central Command plans unified disaster response
The U.S. Central Command on Tuesday presented a plan to unite the disaster-preparation efforts of seven south Asian countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The proposal would result in a headquarters that would oversee the regional response to disasters such as earthquakes, flood or famine, as well as man-made calamities such as mass killings.
The proposal kicked off a three-day conference at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany. It is being attended by Cabinet- and sub-Cabinet-level officials from seven south Asian countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“Our goal is to get them to agree verbally that this is a good idea,” said Robert P. Rook, a disaster preparedness executive with Tampa, Fla.-based CENTCOM.
Rook said he hoped attendees would return to their respective nations and persuade their leaders to support and fund a regional center.
Also participating in the conference are officials from the U.S. European Command, the Pentagon, the U.S. Agency for International Development, NATO, the United Nations and the German government. CENTCOM oversees U.S. military activity in south-central Asia and is organizing the conference with the Marshall Center.
The proposal is similar to one by CENTCOM that in August 2005 resulted in the creation of a disaster preparation center for 11 African nations that is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, Rook said.
He acknowledged that the African center is moving forward slowly but added that getting nations to agree and then work together takes time, and that diplomatic and historical divides must be crossed.
Rook noted that some of the nations have already worked in previous years at workshops and exercises that targeted disasters, including one in July in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He said he hoped this week’s conference would infuse the participants with some regional spirit.
Dr. Roger D. Kangas, a professor of Central Asian studies at the Marshall Center, said that if the nations agreed to form a regional center, the contacts made in Garmisch and in subsequent conferences might help down the road.
“It will make cooperation at all levels more efficient,” Kangas said.