U.S. Sends Planes for Relief Effort
WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. military airplanes have been positioned in Europe to help with an airlift of food and other relief supplies for Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Additional aircraft have been flown to Ramstein Air Base in Germany in preparation for the mission, but crews have not yet been told when they would leave, U.S. officials said.
President Bush has directed $320 million in immediate humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The effort is aimed at helping Afghans survive the coming winter as well as generating good will toward the United States as the Bush administration pushes its campaign against Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. He is being sheltered by the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan.
``We will deliver food and seeds, vaccines and medicines by truck, and even by draft animals,″ Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
``Conditions permitting, we will bring help directly to the people of Afghanistan by air drops.″
Air drops are expected to be a small part of the mission, with supplies also going over the country’s rugged terrain by mule and commercial truck.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week that for an air drop, the military would have to first make sure the Taliban’s air defenses would not pose a threat to U.S. planes. A Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, said the food planes would likely have fighter escorts.
The U.S. aid is part of $600 million pledged following a United Nations appeal Sept. 27.
Civil war and a three-year drought have led to famine and forced millions of Afghans to leave their homes. The crisis has worsened and many have fled since the United States threatened to retaliate for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.