Rumsfeld Discusses Haiti Deployment
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2004 Between 1,500 and 2,000 Marines will deploy to Haiti as part of peacekeeping operations in that nation, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon news conference today.
"A couple hundred" Marines are already in and around Haiti's capital of Port- au-Prince, he noted. They are the leading elements of a multinational interim force sanctioned by the United Nations.
Rumsfeld said he is not aware of any "abduction" used by U.S. forces to get President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti after his Feb. 29 resignation.
The Marines will secure key sites in the capital and will stabilize the security environment there to allow political progress to begin, Rumsfeld said. The interim force has a "shelf life" of three months, and then a U.N. multinational force will take over security operations in Haiti.
The Marines arrived the night of Feb. 29 and more will deploy in the next few days. "The United States will take on the initial leadership of the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti," Rumsfeld said. Leadership of the interim force may pass to another nation, and leadership of the follow-on force will be determined later, he pointed out. France, Canada and some Caribbean and Latin American countries also are participating in the effort.
Rumsfeld said the situation in Haiti is living proof that the world needs more peacekeeping forces. He said the United States will work to build these capabilities in the Western Hemisphere and around the world. "We're committed to working with friends and allies around the world and through alliances such as NATO, to improve these capabilities," he added.