U.S. troops head for Pakistan quake region
One year after sending medical units and other relief teams to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Pakistan, U.S. troops are on their way back for a follow-up mission.
An unspecified number of troops have arrived in Pakistan to carry out “Operation Promise Keeping,” U.S. military officials said from Islamabad on Friday.
The troops are tasked with “bringing rebuilding supplies to the people as they prepare for the winter months near the Himalaya Mountains,” read a news release issued by the Combined Joint Task Force-76 headquarters in Afghanistan.
The new operation is the start of more than $200 million in relief funds promised by American officials over the next four years, officials said.
A massive earthquake hit northern Pakistan and parts of disputed Kashmir on Oct. 8 of last year, killing nearly 80,000 people, injuring nearly 128,000 more and leaving more than 3 million people homeless. In the months afterward, U.S. and other foreign troops carried out a large-scale relief operation that included engineers, medical personnel and relief workers.
The new mission kicked off Oct. 3 when an Air Force C-130 Hercules filled with relief supplies landed in Islamabad, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said. In the coming days, CH-47 Chinook helicopters will arrive and bring those materials — including more than 10,000 sheets of corrugated iron for homes — to remote valleys hit by the earthquake.
Some of those participating in the new effort were in Pakistan for the first relief missions. Among them is Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Roberts, a Chinook pilot and reservist from Fort Lewis, Wash.
“We’re back and we’re here to help,” Roberts was quoted as saying. “We’re here to show the Pakistanis that America has not abandoned them and is still their friend.”
While a humanitarian mission at core, the effort has implications for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. U.S. military officials hope that, by bringing relief supplies, they can win over some of the people sheltering Taliban fighters in the border regions.