FRANKFURT, Germany - The United States turned Thursday to its allies in NATO, which sent AWACs planes to patrol U.S. skies after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to help bring in food and supplies for the hundreds of thousands of Americans left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
Military experts began drawing up plans for an expanded role, including the possible use of ships from the elite NATO Response Force to ferry the aid. The request comes at a time when many nations offering aid have said they have received no answer from U.S. authorities.
"NATO military authorities are now going to discuss this proposal," Kurt Volker, the U.S. principal deputy assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said in Brussels, Belgium.
He said officials were looking at the possibility of having "elements of the NATO Response Force logistical capacity used to transport goods offered by allied countries from Europe to the Gulf of Mexico."
The last time NATO units were used in the United States was just after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Several AWACS crewed by NATO members helped patrol U.S. air space; duties included providing protection for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
NATO officials could have a plan as early as today for deploying its help, including several large transport ships that can transport everything from massive trucks to containers of food, water and medicine.
Once approved, the Response Force, commanded from Lisbon, Portugal, could be moving within five to 30 days.