NATO says Pakistan has yet to request military aid
ASADABAD, Afghanistan — American and NATO troops in Afghanistan have not yet been asked to help recovery and relief efforts from the devastating earthquake in neighboring Pakistan, officials said around midday Sunday.
However, President Bush said Sunday that the United States is sending cash and eight helicopters to Pakistan to help with earthquake rescue and recovery.
“Thousands of people have died, thousands are wounded, and the United States of America wants to help,” Bush said from the Oval Office.
It was not immediately clear whether the eight helicopters would be sent from Afghanistan.
Any orders for the U.S. troops would come from Central Command, officials said. The 11,000-strong NATO contingent would require a modification of its mandate to offer assistance such as heavy-lift helicopters or aircraft, Maj. Andrew Elmes, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, told The Associated Press. The current mandate allows only for missions within Afghanistan.
There were no injuries or damage reported at U.S. or NATO military bases in Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.
Coalition forces “incurred no casualties and no damage to equipment, facilities or capabilities due to the earthquake in Pakistan,” Sgt. Major Lawrence Lane said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “Any U.S. relief effort to support Pakistan’s earthquake recovery is a National Security Council and U.S. Department of State decision. [Combined Forces Command—Afghanistan] will support as directed by Centcom.”
U.S. forces in many areas of the country felt the earthquake.
When the drinking water inside plastic bottles began vibrating, it prompted one U.S. Marine to make a reference to a similar scene in “Jurassic Park.”
But then the earth continued to shake for about one minute, around 8:30 Saturday morning.
In eastern Afghanistan’s Watapoor Valley, Marines with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, were on the tail end of a five-day patrol when the earthquake struck.
Marines from 3rd Platoon lay down on their backs to feel the full effects of the rolling quake. The earthquake was relatively calm in the valley, and none of the Marines was injured in the incident. At the time, no one realized that a couple hundred of miles away thousands were dying because of the earthquake.
At Forward Operating Base Asadabad near the Pakistan border, no servicemembers were hurt and no structures were damaged.
The clock in the base’s chow hall fell from the wall during what Marines said was about five to 10 minutes of shaking.
“I ran outside to see what was going on,” said Cpl. Ahmad Moffett, a cook in the chow hall. “I thought I was going crazy at first.”
Lance Cpl. Troy Vanderlinde was asleep in his hooch at the forward operating base when the earthquake struck.
“This immense shaking woke me up,” said Vanderlinde, 21, of Watertown, Minn. “I thought some crazy person was moving too much earth too close to the base. I eventually rolled over and went back to sleep.”
Only when Vanderlinde got on a computer later in the day to send his mother an e-mail did he realize the earthquake’s devastation.
“I go to AOL and the headline pops up: ‘Earthquake in Pakistan kills x amount of people,’” he said. “That just shocked me with us being in the Kunar province so close to Pakistan.”
Moffett hopes Saturday’s earthquake is the last he experiences.
“Hopefully, it’ll be my last one,” said the 23-year-old from Charlotte, N.C. “That’s why I don’t live in California.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.