21 May 2015 2:35 PM AEST: Long before rescue teams from across the world began pouring into Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, two special operations teams of the US Army that were already in Nepal ‘quickly began carrying out life-saving relief and medical support’.
Anne A. Witkowsky, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Asia and Pacific subcommittee that just hours after the powerful earthquake hit the Himalayan nation, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the Department of Defense (DoD) personnel to respond to the crisis.
“DoD has a long history of military-to-military engagement in Nepal,” she said at the Capitol Hill on May 20.
According to a news release of the DoD, Witkowsky told the panel that her department’s work in Nepal began well before the April 25 earthquake, ‘as the department had set up an earthquake-resistant blood bank, emergency operations centers and other facilities’.
She argued that it is this cooperation between the DoD and the Nepalese Army that ‘likely lessened the scale of the humanitarian disaster’ despite the very powerful temblor.
Witkowsky said once the US special operations teams assessed the situation on the ground, they decided that more help was needed, in particular ‘in the increasingly backlogged international airport’. So, the US military ‘provided training for the Nepalese military on techniques to quickly repair Nepal’s main airport runways and engaged in bilateral disaster-reduction exercises with them’.
In the meantime, the US is drawing down its humanitarian operations in Nepal.