Pakistan floods: Could 'donor fatigue' harm US-Pakistan relations?

A Pentagon official called the Pakistan floods the 'worst natural disaster' in the country's history. He worries that Pakistan might feel slighted that the US military has not been as engaged as it was after the Haiti earthquake earlier this year.

Tim Wimborne /Reuters
A Pakistani soldier walks past a US military helicopter sent to help with the Pakistan floods at an airbase in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province Aug. 15.

A senior US military official expressed concern today about “donor fatigue” in the wake of what he called “without a doubt the single worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history.”

While the military has rescued some 12,800 people in the flood-ravaged region and delivered 4 million pounds of food aid, some officials nonetheless worry about whether Pakistan – a key US ally and neighbor to Afghanistan – will consider these efforts enough in the wake of considerable US military aid efforts in Haiti earlier this year.

Vice Adm. Michael LeFever, commander of the Office of the Defense Representative–Pakistan, said in a Pentagon briefing Wednesday that while the figure of some 1,600 dead “may not seem high” compared to, for example, the Haitian earthquake, in which over 200,000 people are estimated to have perished, the extent of the damage is “unbelievable” and ongoing.

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods

One fifth of Pakistan has been submerged in the flood, and an estimated 1.2 million homes damaged or destroyed even as the damage continues, with waters creeping up in the Indus River. “It’s like watching a tsunami wave in slow motion,” LeFever says.

From the Pentagon’s perspective, there has been concern about not only the human toll and perceptions of US aid efforts in the wake of the flood, but also the impact the disaster might have on counterinsurgency efforts within the country.

While the flood has “taken some of the aviation resources,” including helicopters, that would normally go toward supporting counterinsurgency efforts to use for flood rescue missions, LeFever told reporters that the fact that Pakistani soldiers had killed insurgents in operations as recently as last week “shows me that they are very much concerned with operations against extremists.”

He said the US military has also offered up unmanned aerial vehicle assets to Pakistani officials to help assess the extent of the damage. Such UAV assets were deployed throughout Haiti, where drone footage was used to assess earthquake damage and then shared with aid workers. LeFever says it is also helpful that actress Angelina Jolie has traveled to the region to publicize the extent of the destruction.

It is such damage that the Pentagon says it will continue to monitor, particularly in the wake of crop damage along the fertile river and, LeFever added, the likelihood that the monsoons will continue well into September.

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods

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