This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 015677
DEPT - PLEASE PASS TO USAID KABUL -- PLEASE PASS TO CFC-A
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL PK MASS AEMR PREF ASEC PGOV EAID SUBJECT: PAKISTAN EARTHQUAKE: ONLY MINOR MISSTEPS IN MILITARY RESPONSE
REF: ISLAMABAD 15559 AND NOTAL
1. (U) In the days since a violent 7.6 earthquake rocked northern Pakistan at 0853 October 8th, the Pakistan military has responded to the national crisis with valor and dedication. Army helicopters were in the air less than two hours after the quake struck, flying reconnaissance missions over the North West Frontier Province and the Pakistan side of Kashmir. Before noon that same morning, Pak helicopter crews were flying the casualties back to Islamabad, bringing with them first accounts of the widespread devastation suffered in this mountainous area. Since that day, the Pakistani military has personified patriotism and professionalism, demonstrating precisely why the military is the most highly-respected national institution in this country.
2. (U) Despite their own casualties and losses, military units -- from GHQ commanders to the lowest jawan -- have worked unceasingly over the past ten days executing rescue and relief missions in the most challenging conditions, organizing a massive air lift of humanitarian relief supplies into Pakistan and pushing those supplies north by helicopter sorties and truck convoys. There has been no indication that any military unit has shirked its duty during this national crisis. Indeed, post has heard Pakistanis proudly cite the dedication of those who have soldiered on, regardless of their personal losses, such as the brigadier organizing rescue and relief operations in near Balakot even as his own family lay buried beneath the rubble.
3. (SBU) Although the military quickly shifted into response mode after the earthquake, it took the Government of Pakistan (GOP) a full 24 hours to begin to comprehend the scope of this natural disaster, and another 48 hours to establish the relief infrastructure necessary to coordinate relief operations. (Note: Looking back at the recent U.S. experience with Hurricane Katrina, it is not surprising that the GOP lost precious days struggling to grasp the parameters of this unprecedented calamity. One high-ranking politician confided to emboff, "We didn't have a FEMA, so we had to start from scratch." End note.) While the newly-created Federal Relief Commission (FRC) set up an office in the Prime Minister's Secretariat and began hammering out a concept of operations, the Army and Pakistani Air Force (PAF) conducted organized, coordinated and professional relief missions 24/7. Army helos carried supplies to hastily-established forward-operating bases in Muzzafarabad and Mansehra, flying into narrow valleys to survey areas inaccessible by road. the danger was underscored by the loss of an MI-17 and its crew on October 13th when a change in weather trapped it in a valley. PAF C-130s began air drops of relief supplies within the first few days of operations. The military has deployed every resource at its disposal -- from sophisticated air assets to mule trains -- to get help to those who need it. In many leveled towns, civil administration vanished as the physical infrastructure collapsed, with thousands of public officials and service providers among the quake victims. The army worked to fill that void, imposing order on chaos.
4. (SBU) Troops (11th Corps) garrisoned in the region immediately began relief operations in the NWFP, even though their units lost suffered close to 1300 casualties, with more than 450 killed. (Note: Many troops would have not only lost comrades, but also family members living near the garrisons. End note.) Despite the new mission that nature involuntarily thrust upon it, the Army has capably responded to these new demands without compromising on-going security operations in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas to the west of the quake zone. Instead, the 10th Corps has reinforced its brother unit with troops and supply lines from the Punjab. In effect, since the earthquake, the entire Pakistani military (the 11th Corps in particular) has been waging the equivalent of a two-front war -- and, in post's view, doing so with distinction.
5. (SBU) Of course, there have been missteps and the occasional institutional friction along the way, as the nascent FRC has bumped against the near omnipotent GHQ. Even with these growing pains, the military has effectively (if not always seamlessly) managed a relief system that has moved more than a half milllion pounds of humanitarian assistance, along with rescue teams, medical personnel and crisis managers, into some of the most unforgiving terrain imaginable. Ten days into the crisis, the trends continue to be encouraging. GHQ acknowledges the FRC's leadership role, telling emboffs that the FRC "speaks for the GOP." Coordination between military and civilian agencies improves daily.
6. (SBU) The best evidence of Pakistani military professionalism has been the grace with which U.S. military assistance has been accepted and welcomed. Confident that our assurances that U.S. forces are to support the Pakistani relief mission are sincere, both the Army and PAF have shown an increasing level of transparency and openness in coordinating with U.S. military interlocutors. Simply put, our uniforms speak the same language as their uniforms; together, they have made things happen. Two weeks ago, post's military liaisons were haggling to secure access for Embassy motorcades at the Chaklala air field; today, at that same air field, NAVCENT's 209-person Disaster Assistance Center is running independent flight operations for 400 fixed-wing and helo sorties and managing a logistical operation pushing tons of relief supplies to the disaster area.
7. (SBU) It cannot have been easy for the proud Pakistani military to admit that it needed help to respond to the needs of its citizens; that it has done so demonstrates that its commitment to duty trumps institutional vanity. By according the Pakistan military the respect it deserves for its competent and comprehensive emergency response, the U.S. makes it easier for military leaders to be receptive to our guidance and suggestions for improving coordination and efficiency. In the end, we must always remember that this is Pakistan's crisis; as a FRC contact told emboffs on October 18, "As much as we appreciate the U.S. effort, it is up to our internal organizational abilities to bring relief to our nation." CROCKER