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Clinton says U.S. may give Pakistan $110 million to aid displaced

The announcement appears to reflect concern that Pakistan's offensive on militants in tribal areas may create a humanitarian catastrophe that could turn civilians against counterinsurgency efforts.

May 20, 2009|Paul Richter

WASHINGTON — The United States plans to provide as much as $110 million to help Pakistanis who have been displaced by their government's attacks on militants in northwestern tribal areas, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday.

Clinton, speaking at the White House, said U.S. relief officials were already on the ground in northwestern Pakistan evaluating the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been driven from their homes since the Pakistani government's offensive began last month.

"Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States," she said. "And we are prepared to do more as the situation demands."

The announcement appeared to reflect, in part, the Obama administration's concern that the Pakistani offensive, which was strongly urged by Washington, not create a humanitarian catastrophe that might turn ordinary Pakistanis against the counterinsurgency effort.

Pakistani forces have been using heavy artillery and aircraft to batter the militants, but the fighting has sent columns of civilians fleeing the Swat Valley and prompted criticism that the government's tactics are heavy-handed.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 2 million Pakistanis have fled their homes.

U.S. officials urged the Pakistani government to begin the offensive after hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed out of the valley -- a beautiful mountainous area where many better-off Pakistanis spend their summers -- and into nearby districts.

The Taliban's offensive brought the militants within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad, and prompted warnings that the government could be imperiled.

Clinton said aid workers were providing items such as tents, food, generators and radios. The U.S. military is providing some water trucks, she said.

The secretary of State said the United States had provided $3.4 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2002 for humanitarian relief and other nonmilitary purposes, including economic development and assistance with governance.

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paul.richter@latimes.com

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