August 16, 2010

On This Week, Christiane Amanpour reported on the devastating floods which are ravaging that country and the trouble they're having with getting supplies in to help out. No shocker here, the people there are actually welcoming the site of American helicopters now that they're helping with much needed aid instead of dropping bombs on civilians' houses. That said sadly they're not having an easy time with putting a dent in the amount of help that's needed.

Relief Supplies Not Getting to Pakistani Flood Victims:

The floodwaters in Pakistan are showing few signs of letting up, paralyzing relief efforts and leaving the 14 million people affected by the floods desperately waiting for help.

The U.S. military has sent 19 helicopters to the hard-hit northwest to help distribute aid supplies, but the monsoon rains have kept them grounded. The helicopters have only been able to fly relief missions three days out of the last nine. There are more than 400 tons of flour, rice and baby formula waiting to get to the affected areas, but as long as the helicopters are not flying, the aid is not getting to those who need it.

Army pilot Maj. Dan Rice was rushed to Pakistan from Afghanistan to help. His squadron, loaded with supplies, is going nowhere.

"It's extremely frustrating." he told ABC News. "We know there's people up there who need to get to safety."

All Maj. Rice can do now is wait for the rain to relent.

"Each of the helicopters is already loaded and ready to go. So the moment we have a chance to go, we are prepared, we're briefed and we'll be in the helicopters moving," he said.

The scope of the devastation is staggering. Six million people survived the floods, but now are in dire need of aid. Two million people are homeless and a fifth of the country remains underwater. Infrastructure has been wiped out, two years of crops washed away. The river Indus, in the south of the country, has swelled to 25 times its normal width for this time of year.

And from McClatchy, what could possibly go wrong when a country that actually has nukes suffers this kind of devastation? Pakistan flood disaster may destabilize nation:

The humanitarian and economic disaster caused by the worst floods in Pakistan's history could spark political unrest that could destabilize the government, dealing a major blow to the Obama administration's efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism.

The government's shambling response to floods that have affected one-third of the country has some analysts saying President Asif Ali Zardari could be forced from office, possibly by the military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half its 63-year history.

Other experts caution the nation could collapse, as hunger and destitution trigger unrest in a populace already seething over massive unemployment, high fuel prices, widespread power outages, corruption and a bloody insurgency by extremists allied with al-Qaida.

"The powers that be, that is the military and bureaucratic establishment, are mulling the formation of a national government, with or without the PPP (Zardari's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party)," said Najam Sethi, editor of the weekly Friday Times.

"There is a perception in the army that you need good governance to get out of the economic crisis and there is no good governance," he said.

The Obama administration stepped up emergency aid this week to $76 million, anxious to counter the influence of Islamic extremist groups that are feeding and housing victims through charitable front organizations in areas the government hasn't reached.

Some U.S. officials worry those groups could exploit the crisis to recruit new members and bolster their fight to impose hard-line Islamic rule on nuclear-armed Pakistan.

"I think the mid- to long-term radicalization threat accelerates because of the mass migration and the frustration that is coming from this," said Thomas Lynch, a research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Pakistan is battling militant groups led by the Pakistani Taliban, whose strongholds on the country's northwestern fringe also provide bases to al-Qaida, the Afghan Taliban and allied extremists fighting NATO and Afghan troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said Friday that a three-ship task force carrying 2,000 Marines, Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, transport helicopters and relief supplies is sailing for Pakistan. It will replace the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault vessel steaming off the port of Karachi that has lent 19 helicopters and 1,000 Marines to the aid operations.

U.S. officials, who requested anonymity, downplayed the threat of near-term political upheaval, and they dismissed the danger of a coup, saying that the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, wants the military out of politics.

I'm sure all the right wingers will still be calling Al Gore an alarmist despite the fact that even the Pentagon recognized the fact that global warming could be a destabilizing force:

The Pentagon will for the first time rank global warming as a destabilising force, adding fuel to conflict and putting US troops at risk around the world, in a major strategy review to be presented to Congress tomorrow. The quadrennial defence review, prepared by the Pentagon to update Congress on its security vision, will direct military planners to keep track of the latest climate science, and to factor global warming into their long term strategic planning.

"While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world," said a draft of the review seen by the Guardian.

Heatwaves and freak storms could put increasing demand on the US military to respond to humanitarian crises or natural disaster. But troops could feel the effects of climate change even more directly, the draft says.

More than 30 US bases are threatened by rising sea levels. It ordered the Pentagon to review the risks posed to installations, and to combat troops by a potential increase in severe heatwaves and fires.

The review's release coincides with a sharpening focus in the American defence establishment about global warming – even though polls last week showed the public increasingly less concerned.

The CIA late last year established a centre to collect intelligence on climate change. Earlier this month, CIA officials sent emails to environmental experts in Washington seeking their views on climate change impacts around the world, and how the agency could keep tabs on what actions countries were taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The CIA has also restarted a programme – scrapped by George Bush – that allowed scientists and spies to share satellite images of glaciers and Arctic sea ice.

That suggests climate change is here to stay as a topic of concern for the Pentagon.

The Pentagon, in acknowledging the threat of global warming, will now have to factor climate change into war game exercises and long-term security assessments of badly affected regions such as the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.

Military planners will have to factor climate change into war game exercises and long-term security assessments of badly affected regions such as the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.

"The leadership of the Pentagon has very strongly indicated that they do consider climate change to be a national security issue," said Christine Parthemore, an analyst at the Centre for a New American Security, who has been studying the Pentagon's evolving views on climate change. "They are considering climate change on a par with the political and economic factors as the key drivers that are shaping the world."

Awareness of climate change and its impact on threat levels and military capability had been slowly percolating through the ranks since 2008 when then Senators Hillary Clinton and John Warner pushed the Pentagon to look specifically at the impact of global warming in its next long-term review. Read on...

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