WASHINGTON – Massive flooding that has submerged vast swaths of Pakistan has stretched thin the Pakistani military and will hamper its fight against terrorists, the country's ambassador to the U.S. said Wednesday.
The military's resources, particularly its limited supply of helicopters, are busy with flood relief, Husain Haqqani said, adding that going after extremists in North Waziristan or other terrorist safe havens will depend on the military's ongoing capabilities.
U.S. military leaders have pressed Pakistan to move into North Waziristan's lawless border region where insurgents launch attacks into Afghanistan and al-Qaida leaders find sanctuary. But that has not yet happened.
Pakistan has asked the U.S. for additional military equipment and training, and there are a number of pending requests, Haqqani told The Associated Press in an interview. But he said his chief concern now is that Pakistan receive reconstruction and other assistance to help recover from the flooding.
He said he worries that money will be diverted from previously approved spending, while the country needs new allocations to rebuild bridges and other facilities, prevent disease, restore crops and dispose of dead livestock.
Still, Haqqani and senior defense leaders say that Pakistan has continued its operations against al-Qaida in the west and northwest.
Vice Admiral Michael A. LeFever, the top U.S. military officer in Pakistan, said Wednesday that the government in Islamabad was still trying to get its arms around the true impact of the flooding disaster, which has left more than 1,700 dead but millions of people destitute and vulnerable to disease.
"It's like watching a tsunami wave in slow motion to see the devastation that's still occurring," he told reporters.
He also acknowledged that some of the country's aviation assets had been diverted to flood relief operations.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that any move by Pakistan to conduct operations in North Waziristan would likely be delayed "for some time."
Associated Press writer Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.