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A harsh winter season descended upon Central Asia. In past years, denizens of the region were accustomed to the frigid temperatures and scathing winds. However, the winters of 2001 and 2002 proved to be different-as millions of Afghan refugees and displaced persons faced the season in near famine conditions. In anticipation of a crisis, the United States coordinated various government agencies to help with relief efforts in Afghanistan and neighboring areas.

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How did the US Forest Service help the humanitarian relief efforts? By helping to coordinate logistics, the Agency ensured that certain aspects of the operation, such as delivering relief supplies and equipment, ran smoothly. Funded by the US Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the US Forest Service's International Programs, through the Disaster Assistance Support Program, deployed logistics officers to Central Asia on separate missions.

Here are summaries of the Agency's involvement in the Afghan Relief Effort:

  • At the end of November 2001, International Programs sent two logistic officers to Central Asia. The US Agency for International Development provided funds for the individuals to procure supplies, including food, blankets and medical equipment in Turkmenistan. Working in these border areas, the Forest Service logistics officers made sure that international organizations transported the supplies into Afghanistan both safely and efficiently. This represented part of the ongoing collaborative work between the US Agency for International Development and International Programs to evaluate future needs for a Disaster Assistance Response Team.

  • In addition, the Forest Service employees assisted a similar effort implemented and funded by UNICEF. This organization's strategy was to position humanitarian relief aid along the borders of Afghanistan to deliver as many relief supplies as possible. With funding from domestic donations, UNICEF committed $36 million to this end. The Forest Service employees made sure that bandages, medicine, vaccines, food, blankets, sweaters and water were transferred from warehouses to refugee sites.

  • In September 2002, International Programs deployed a member of the Timber Staff of the US Forest Service to Uzbekistan to coordinate the logistics of the humanitarian response to the Afghan refugees, who have suffered from years of famine, drought and civil strife. His primary role was: to assess the infrastructure in Uzbekistan and its capability to sustain a relief operation in the region. Additionally, International Programs sent a key member of the Bureau of Land Management's Fire and Aviation Management Unit to serve as a Military Liaison Officer to the Joint US/British Civil Military Operations Center in Pakistan.

In the following months, as the winter cast its shadow across Central Asia, the United States sent more personnel from both agencies to be part of the Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team. Trained by International Programs' Disaster Assistance Support Program, the Team helped direct the delivery of much needed, US Government-funded humanitarian relief supplies to help mitigate a potential disaster.

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