General Reports Relative Calm in Haiti
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2010 For the second straight day, military officials have characterized the security situation in Haiti as “relatively calm” amid the country’s struggle to recover in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.
With the U.S. military footprint expected to grow to more than 10,000 by the day’s end, the positive assessment comes a day after official U.S. sources and Haitian residents reported that the number of violent incidents has declined to pre-earthquake levels.
“The security situation here in Haiti remains relatively calm,” Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the second in command of U.S. operations in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters today. “Distribution points remain orderly throughout our humanitarian assistance efforts, and feedback from the people of Haiti has been positive.”
The remarks today come as some 7,000 U.S. troops are operating in Haiti, including 2,000 on the ground and more than 5,000 afloat off the Haitian coast. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team continues to flow into the country, with the last portion of the brigade expected within 48 hours, and some 800 Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived offshore last night.
But despite an increasing military footprint to reinforce a security situation that has enjoyed two days of relatively upbeat appraisals, the top U.S. commander in Haiti yesterday reported that security incidents in the devastated country continue to impede efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance, and Allyn today emphasized the ongoing potential for violence.
“Obviously, we are watching for signs of instability,” Allyn said. “At present, there are ‘pockets’ in areas of Haiti, and the U.N. security forces are working with the Haitian national police to address those pockets as they arise. And they have been able to effectively deal with them, and we're confident they will continue to do so.”
Such instability sometimes is caused by people who need food, water or other life-sustaining support, Allyn said, and some instability is created by criminal activity. Haitian prisons collapsed in the earthquake, he noted, allowing inmates back into the populace.
The general cited progress among the decimated ranks of Haitian police, which was reduced to a 500-strong force in the quake’s immediate aftermath, but has since quadrupled, with 2,000 police reporting for duty last night.
“It's obviously necessary for the security forces of the government of Haiti, the Haitian national police, to increase their capacity,” Allyn added.
The general praised the United Nations, which has the lead for security in Haiti, for helping to restore stability and security to the people of Haiti and its government. Under this rubric, U.S. military efforts are working in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission.
For its part, the Defense Department has pledged up to $20 million in emergency relief funds for Haiti, and sprang troops into action following the quake, with the U.S. military footprint there expected to grow with the addition of more troops and the impending arrival of the USNS Comfort, a floating military hospital ship.
“By midday tomorrow, we expect to be able to transfer high-priority patients identified by the minister of health and the medical professionals on the ground here in Haiti to ensure that those most in need of trauma care and advanced medical procedures will be able to receive those on the Comfort,” Allyn said.
Haiti has been the focus of an expansive relief effort in the wake of the disaster, which officials believe has killed between 100,000 to 200,000 people and which the Red Cross estimates has affected some 3 million people.