Gates: U.S. Demonstrates Unmatched Abilities in Haiti
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 18, 2010 The U.S. military is demonstrating in Haiti its unparalleled capability in dealing with humanitarian disasters, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.
“The way we have been able to respond is indicative of our preparedness to deal with this sort of thing,” Gates told reporters traveling with him to India. “To get the number of ships and the number of people and the supplies forward as quickly as we have, I think, speaks to the capability of the military.”
“Frankly, I don’t think there is anybody in the world better at it than the American military,” he said.
Lessons learned supporting a long string of humanitarian crises missions around the world have sharpened this capability, Gates said. He cited the U.S. military role following the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, a major earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and devastating hurricanes in Haiti.
“So we end up doing this with some regularity,” he said, with each disaster presenting different challenges. “But we obviously learn each time.”
That storehouse of experience is proving critical in Haiti, where a massive logistics operation is under way to get food and water to the populace.
Gates reiterated concern that the situation in Haiti could turn violent if adequate sustenance doesn’t reach people soon.
Although more secure landing areas have been established for helicopters to drop provisions, the secretary emphasized that airdrops alone can’t meet the needs of 2 million Haitians. Ground transportation within Port-au-Prince remains challenging, he said.
While providing a desperately needed logistics train, the U.S. military will support the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti and the Haitian government as required to maintain security, he said.
Gates noted reports that violence in the capital city has dropped during the past day or two below pre-earthquake numbers.
“We will work with the U.N. .. to ensure the security situation remains good,” he said.