Marines to begin pulling out from Haiti next week
ARLINGTON, Va. — Plans are on track to begin withdrawing some of the nearly 1,900 U.S. troops from Haiti next week, and have them all out by the end of June, Pentagon officials said.
“We’ve worked out with the follow-on U.N. force that comes in there, and that follow-on force will begin to flow in at the beginning of June … and we’ll have all the Marines home by the end of June, unless, you know, something significantly changes,” Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director for operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
The U.S.-led Multinational Interim Force-Haiti, which includes Canada, Chile and France, entered Haiti on Feb. 29 to stabilize the Caribbean nation following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Pentagon plans in February were to have U.S. forces, already stretched thin because of contingencies in the Middle East, committed to Haiti for 90 days.
“We don’t work on deadlines real well around here,” said Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita. “So I mean, that’s all sort of the plan. And then we’ll just, as the situation changes, we’ll work off of it.”
The U.S. contingency now is just under 1,900 troops, with 1,500 of them from the U.S. Marine Air Ground Task Force-8 out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and members of the Air Force, Army and Coast Guard.
The interim force has accomplished its mission, said Lt. Col. David Lapan, MIF-Haiti spokesman.
“The situation today is stable and generally secure,” Lapan said. “Schools are open, businesses are open, Haitians can go out day and night, [which was] not the case when we first arrived due to violence and curfew, which the government has since lifted.”
The United Nations is working to recruit countries to commit forces. Brazil has pledged 1,200 troops for the follow-on peacekeeping mission, to be augmented by 518 Canadian forces, who will be there for another 90 days, and 350 Chilean troops, said Denise Cook, from the office of the secretary general. It is likely that Brazil will lead the follow-on contingency of peacekeepers, she said.
The U.N. also is working with several French-speaking African nations, Cook said. Creole and French are the official languages of Haiti.
“But it’s very difficult for them to commit at this time because there are many peacekeeping missions in Africa, such as the Cote-d’Ivoire, Burundi and other places that also need [French]-speaking forces,” Cook said.
About 900 French troops, 500 Canadian troops and 300 Chilean troops are in Haiti now.
“The military component needs to be about 2,500 troops to take over from the [Interim Force], and we’re hoping that will be ready by the end of June,” Cook said. “A bulk of additional forces should arrive in July, though no date has been announced.”
As some of the U.S. forces prepare to redeploy, others have been sent recently to towns along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border to aid victims of this weekend’s devastating flood and landslides, which have claimed 1,950 lives, according to a Reuters report.
Combined Joint Task Force-80 has airlifted more than 35,000 pounds of water and 10 pallets of food supplies.