The Obama administration Tuesday pledged $110 million in humanitarian aid for Pakistani refugees fleeing heavy fighting in the country’s Swat Valley and asked Americans to donate $5 each via text-messaging for tents, clothing, food and medicine.
New concerns were raised, meanwhile, about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program by recent satellite images showing continuing expansion of two key nuclear sites.
The administration, which announced an initial $5 million this past week to help more than 1 million people who have fled the fighting between the military and Taliban forces in Swat, said that most of the $110 million will come from the State Department budget, with $10 million from the Pentagon.
“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 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.”
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 there is a “national mood change” among Pakistanis against the Taliban.
She also called U.S. policy toward Pakistan in the past 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.
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.”
Last month, Mrs. Clinton also expressed serious concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which she said is “dispersed” around the country. At the time, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released images suggesting that Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium, a fuel for atomic bombs.
On Tuesday, the ISIS, which is headed by former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, made public new images that it said revealed “the expansion of two nuclear sites key to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.”
“One of the sites undergoing expansion - the Chemical Plants Complex near Dera Ghazi Khan - is an important military and civil fuel cycle site. It produces natural uranium hexafluoride and uranium metal - two key materials used in producing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” the institute said.
“The other site, the New Labs facility near Rawalpindi, appears to have added a second plutonium separation plant adjacent to the old one,” it added.