AFP - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday unveiled more than 100 million dollars in emergency aid for civilians fleeing a US-backed military offensive against Taliban militants in Pakistan.
"We're doing this because the future of Pakistan is extremely important to the United States," Clinton told a press conference at the White House. "The advance of extremism is a threat to our security."
But the top US diplomat said she sensed a "national mood change" against the Taliban in Pakistan, and heaped praise on the military offensive against the extremists.
"There is a real national mood change on the part of the Pakistani people that we are watching and obviously are encouraged by," Clinton said.
"This is a potential direct threat to their way of life in Pakistan."
A total of 110 million dollars in aid from the State Department and Pentagon will be sent to Pakistan to help ease the plight of two million people who have fled the fighting in northwest Pakistan, a White House statement said.
The funds will be used to deliver tents, halal meats, water trucks, generators and other supplies, Clinton said, adding some of the money would be used to buy Pakistani wheat to boost the local economy.
"Pakistan is facing a major humanitarian crisis," she said. "Approximately two million people have fled their homes."
Pakistan can succeed in coping with the crisis but only if the international community and the United States do its share, the chief US diplomat said.
"Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do but essential" to ensuring global security, she said.
She also urged Americans using their cell phones to text message donations of five dollars each. She said Pakistanis with cell phones would receive text messages informing them about the assistance program.
A US government breakdown of the aid shows a variety of supplies:
-- 20 million dollars will be used to provide tents, FM radios, and generators that will provide light and water
-- 26 million dollars for the immediate purchase of wheat, other food, and related items from local sources
-- 17 million dollars for 50,000 tons of wheat arriving in May and June
-- 10 million dollars to respond to forthcoming emergency appeals by the United Nations
-- 15 million dollars for shipments of food items such as lentils, dried peas, and other basic foodstuffs
-- 12 million dollars for an emergency response center for direct humanitarian needs
-- 10 million dollars from the Department of Defense for water trucks, halal food, and large tents with environmental units, such as air conditioning, for hot weather.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday the Defense Department was drawing up preliminary plans to fly food, water and tents to help those displaced by the Pakistani army's offensive against the militants.
"The Pakistanis could use some basic humanitarian assistance that the United States is prepared to provide," Whitman told reporters.
A request was pending from Islamabad for humanitarian aid and final details were being worked out through the State Department, he said.
"We want to be there to help them," Whitman added. "We want to demonstrate that we are good partners."
Islamabad ordered the offensive under mounting US pressure, after the insurgents took up positions just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Pakistani capital, having broken out of their hub in Swat.