Shortly after arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday, I met with retired General Nadeem Ahmed, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. As the general took me up in a military helicopter to inspect the once-beautiful but ravaged Swat valley, we spoke openly and candidly about the true extent of the damage wrought by the floodwaters.
As was clearly visible in areas where the waters had receded, the real work to bring Pakistan back to life has yet to start. As far as the eye could see, foundations and buttresses supported nonexistent houses and bridges, power lines lay hopelessly tangled on the ground, and roads destroyed and washed away. A layer of mud coated the landscape like brown paint and the normally sparkling, turquoise Swat river has become a river of mud. As I look around me, it is obvious that Pakistan faces the biggest challenge in its 64-year history.
As I convene my senior staff tonight, we will fine-tune a plan that top USAID officials have been formulating since the scope of the disaster became apparent. Throughout the flight, General Nadeem pointed out schools and medical centers that are still standing that were built with the help of USAID. One thing is clear, though, which is that the United States intends to show itself as a friend and committed partner of Pakistan for many years to come.