Pakistan Floods Could Sweep Away Weak Gov't?

There's been no let-up in the monsoon rains in Pakistan.

A photo taken Sunday from space shows a fifth of the country underwater. Government aid has reached only 500,000 of the 20 million people affected. Three and a half million children are at risk of disease.

The United States is rushing to help for humanitarian and strategic reasons, CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports.

Ninety nine feet long with thundering twin engines, American Chinook helicopters have helped move almost 5,000 flood victims. A former U.S. ambassador recalled the last time it was like this.

"President (Pervez) Musharraf at that time would point to them and say, 'Here comes another squadron of the angels of mercy,'" said Wendy Chamberlin, now president of the Middle East Institute.

That was after a devastating earthquake in 2005, when so-called "Chinook diplomacy" boosted America's standing in a country widely seen as a reluctant ally in the war on terror.

Now, with the flooding, the stakes maybe even higher.

"I don't think it will happen, but I think we need to plan for a worst-case scenario, a nightmare scenario, and that nightmare scenario is an al Qaeda, Taliban-type takeover of the government," Chamberlin said.

Already weak and unpopular before the floods broke, the Pakistani government's been slow to get aid to where it's needed.

Keeping the country from drowning in its distress is crucial to U.S. policy.

"An extremist government in Pakistan would have its finger on the atomic weapons arsenals," Chamberlin said.

Hard line Islamist groups have been helping flood victims, but the battle for hearts and minds has by no means been lost, according to the current U.S. ambassador in Pakistan.

"Stories about extremist organizations being the only players out there are greatly exaggerated," Ambassador Anne Patterson said.

What's not overstated is the scale of the disaster. The floods began three weeks ago, and there are millions still in Pakistan struggling to survive.

More on Pakistan Floods

U.N.: Millions without Aid in Pakistan Floods
Pakistan Farmers Bear Brunt of Deadly Floods
Pakistan Towns Cut off from Aid
Pakistan Flood Victims Protest Slow Aid Delivery
U.N. Chief: Pakistan Floods the Worst I've Seen
Cholera Hits Pakistan Flood Victims
Floods Continue to Torment Pakistan
Pakistan's Smallest Flood Victims
Pakistan Floods Fail to Spark Strong Global Aid
Pakistan Floods May Give Taliban Time to Regroup
China, Pakistan Desperate for Flood Aid
Pakistani Flood Victims Fast, Ramadan or Not
  • Richard Roth

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