- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When you vote for your “American Idol” favorite after the show’s finale tonight, the Obama administration wants you to send one more text message, adding your own $5 contribution to the $110 million the administration pledged Tuesday in humanitarian aid for Pakistani refugees.

The White House praised the appointment of Brig. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad to lead the Pakistani effort to help more than 1 million people who have fled heavy fighting between the military and Taliban forces in the country’s Swat Valley.

Gen. Nadeem headed the relief efforts following a powerful 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is facing a major humanitarian crisis,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters, adding that Washington was responding to a request from Islamabad and was ready to do more. “As long as this crisis persists, our assistance will continue.”

The administration announced an initial $5 million in aid last week. Most of the $110 million will come from the State Department budget, with $10 million from the Pentagon.

The largest part of the new money, $26 million, will go “for the immediate purchase of wheat, other food and related items from local sources,” the White House said. About $20 million will be used “to provide family relief kits, tents, FM radios and generators that will provide light and water,” it said.

“We are doing this because the future of Pakistan is extremely important to the United States,” Mrs. Clinton said. “The advance of extremism is a threat to our security.”

Mrs. Clinton, who harshly criticized Islamabad for “abdicating” to the Taliban in some areas of the country last month, on Tuesday praised its decision to take on the extremists in Swat. She added that there is a “national mood change” among Pakistanis against the Taliban.

She also called U.S. policy toward Pakistan in last 30 years “incoherent.”

“We have walked away from Pakistan before with consequences that have not been in the best interests of our security, and we are determined that we are going to forge a partnership with the people of Pakistan and their democratically elected government against extremism,” she said.

The secretary urged Americans to help directly, in addition to the official aid from their taxpayers’ dollars.

“Using your cell phone, Americans can text the word ‘Swat’ to the number 20222 and make a $5 contribution that would help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food and medicine for hundreds of thousands of affected people,” Mrs. Clinton said.

“President Obama and I hope that individuals who have fled the conflict will be able to return home quickly, safely and on a voluntary basis. Some have already gone back to their communities, and as they do, the United States stands ready to help Pakistan’s government support displaced persons as they rebuild their lives,” she said.

U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres on Monday called the current displacement crisis “one of the most dramatic of recent times,” his office said. “Humanitarian workers are struggling to keep up with the size and speed of the displacement, and Mr. Guterres warns of potential destabilization if uprooted people and tens of thousands of host families trying to care for them don’t get help fast.”

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