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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ISLAMABAD15677
2005-10-19 07:44:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

PAKISTAN EARTHQUAKE: ONLY MINOR MISSTEPS IN

Tags:   PREL  PK  MASS  AEMR  PREF  ASEC  PGOV  EAID 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 015677 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 015677

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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