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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Dennis Boxx, DATSD PA

Presenters: Mr. Dennis Boxx, DATSD PA
March 29, 1995 1:30 PM EDT
Subject: Haiti

Wednesday, March 29, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Boxx: Good afternoon.

We've asked General John Sheehan to come this afternoon and give you a rundown on the activities in Haiti, the transition to UNMIH and his perspective of how we've gotten to where we are.

As you all know, I'm sure, General Sheehan is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command. He's been deeply involved in Haiti operations both while he was the Director of Operations for the Joint Staff and, of course, since he assumed his job as the CINC of USACOM in October of last year.

This will be an on-the-record briefing. He'll have some opening charts and take your questions afterwards.

General Sheehan: It's a real pleasure to be back here in Washington. What I'd like to do is go over some charts to kind of frame the discussion. It will only take a couple of minutes. Then we'll go to the question and answer period.

What I'd like to do is review for you the original multinational force mission that was assigned to initially General Meade, 10th Mountain Division, and General Fisher who is down there now. It's basically to establish a secure and stable environment, the kinds of things that you see there.

This is the UNMIH mission that will take place on Friday in the afternoon once the U.N. takes over. Basically, the same type of mission statement: stable environment, protect key personnel, create and train a separate police force. As we go through it, I'll show you how that execution is going to take place.

This is the history of the intervention starting back here on the 18th of September. As you know, it was a planned operation from a forcible entry. Once the Carter/Powell/Nunn Commission was able to convince Cedras and his company to leave, it ended up being a permissive environment.

We capped out at about 22,000 people. Aristeed returned on the 15th of October, and you'll notice there's been a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces in Haiti and replacement by the multinational force. We took the Marines out first, then started reducing the afloat forces that were off-shore, and then gradually bringing the numbers down. We're at a little over 4,800 today. On the 31st of March the force size will be 6,000 in terms of U.N. forces -- 2,400 or so which will be U.S. I'll get into more detail. That will last until February or March of 1996 which is the end of the U.N. charter.

This reflects the force composition. About 70 percent of the U.N. forces are already in place and have been in place for quite some time. It's just a question tomorrow, about 70 percent of the forces will take off a kevlar helmet and put on a blue beret, and they'll stand up doing essentially the same kind of thing. What you see is the U.S. forces and the coalition forces, transition day is Friday. We're going to keep some extra U.S. people there not for any reason other than the fact that just getting people out of Haiti and through the port facility. We have, as I said, about 4,800 there today. That number will shrink and go down to 2,400 by about the 15th of April. A lot of that has to do with people who are getting equipment ready and those kinds of things will fly out.

This is a comparison. I've been asked by a number of people, isn't really the security situation in Haiti going to change significantly once the U.S., the predominant force in the multinational force, departs? You can see by comparison that basically, there really is no difference in terms of capability that's in country. It's about 6,000 total. You can see the 20 companies, one more than we have right now on the multinational side. Cavalry troops. This just translates, basically, into motorized capability covering the countryside, and military police will still stay with the same three companies.

In terms of disposition, this is what it will look like. It will take some time to get this final sorting out on the ground done, but finally by the end of next month what you should see is the various zones with CARICOM, this is the seven nations of the Caribbean, the southern region. The Netherlands, who are already down there right now in the southern region here. Nepal, Pakistan, Honduras, Bangladesh in the center sector, with U.S. forces in the Port-au-Prince area.

Special Forces. These are the countryside locations they were in. We started out at 27, went to 21, and we'll shrink that down gradually, leaving 550 special operating forces still in country. You can see from the UNMIH countries what the distribution of those forces are. As you know, there are some 931 international police monitors as part of this process.

I'll just leave that up for reference reasons. I would say that Friday afternoon when the transition takes place, I feel very confident that the transition will go well, the forces in place know what they're doing. Ninety-five percent of their equipment is in place. There are still one or two pieces that we need to get in that are coming by ship, and because of weather or whatever reason, there's been a slight delay. But there will be no problems in the transition and I think the ceremony will go well.

I'd like to open it up for questions at this point in time.

Q: Can I ask if it's within the ability of the current forces and the upcoming U.N. forces, to stop the kind of thing that happened yesterday.

A: I think the murder that took place yesterday is ... There's no one solution for that. It will take a security force on the part of the U.N., it will take the Interim Police Force (IPSF) and ultimately the police force of Haiti that's currently undergoing training, the first class graduating I think the 2nd of June, and the leadership of Haiti to convince the people that that type of activity is no longer tolerable. So there isn't any one particular solution. You know that with the exception of about a week ago, there has been an average of about two deaths a day in Haiti. Most of those are economic violence, some vigilante violence. But I am very hopeful that if everyone does his part the leadership of Haiti, the people of Haiti, the multinational force of the U.N., and the emerging police capability -- I think you'll see a downswing in the level of violence in Haiti. But it will take everybody's involvement.

Q: What sort of warning did the victim of the assassination have?

A: The victim was notified that she was in danger. She, to my understanding, turned down support or request for support. She did have a bodyguard with her when she was shot yesterday afternoon.

Q: By whom was she notified?

A: She was notified by the Haitian government. I believe it was the Ministry of Justice.

Q: Personal bodyguard?

A: I believe it was a personal bodyguard that was in her vehicle with her.

Q: As you look ahead over this transition, what is your biggest concern? What's the biggest potential problem area that you need to keep an eye on as this transitions into a United Nations mission?

A: The U.N. mission transition will take place. It has taken place. The equipment's been switched over, the communications gear is there, 70 percent of the forces are already there. They have been going through a period of oversight where, for example, the U.N. forces have been working in cooperation with the multinational force so they are now and will continue to do over the next couple of days, do the primary patrolling with the U.S. and the multinational forces overwatch position.

I think the things that would concern the international community is first off, that the elections take place on time, and that voter registration is going on right now, although slightly behind schedule. I think the elections at the end of this year are absolutely critical. Aristeed has said many times himself, the real secret to democracy in Haiti is when his successor takes office. I think then it's a leadership issue. That the people of Haiti, number one, understand that reconciliation is the only way that the future of Haiti has a chance. And two, that you reinforce to the international community that Haiti is worth investing in as a country. Any one of those things clearly could cause this process of supporting a fledgling democracy to get off track.

Q: What about the security situation you mentioned? Aristeed has again asked that more disarmament take place. Is there any thought about doing more in that area?

A: I think in the 160, 170 days that we've been there, we have taken off the streets 29,600-some-odd weapons. That's rifles, machine guns, grenades. Clearly a lethal capability. And the weapons buy-back program is going to continue even after the transition takes place. So there has been an awful lot of weapons that have been taken off the street. But clearly in a society like Haiti, where the cultural violence and intimidation has been part of the historical past, it's going to take a long period of time to convince the people that that type of solution to their problems is not the way that a democracy survives. So it's going to have to be a daily activity.

I think when you look at from when we went in there and Aristeed came back, we're only talking about 180 days. I think what you really need to focus on is just how peaceful it has been, as opposed to what we were originally projecting some six months ago when many of us were in the same room talking about Haitian-on-Haitian violence.

Q: One of the weaknesses in cases like the one yesterday appears to be a lack of a criminal justice system. Is part of the U.N. mission to try to rebuild that?

A: The Justice Department is, as many people have already indicated, in severe need of reform. Major General Campbell is down there working with the justice system. What they're focusing on is what we refer to as the court of first recourse -- that level of the criminal justice system that people who could, in fact, bring down the government, either seditionists, murderers, rapists that they were allowed to get some kind of process going to incarcerate them with due course justice.

An AID contract has been let to support the Justice Ministry and that contract should start seeing people arriving in Haiti, I think, by the first or second week in April to replace General Campbell and the reserve forces that were down there.

Q: At the outset, President Clinton said that one of the main parts of the mission was to preserve human rights, yet at the same time, one of the first scenes that Americans saw after American soldiers went in was American soldiers standing by while Haitians were beaten to death. Do you believe that was ever a serious issue for us in this mission? If so, was it carried out?

A: First off, I think your characterization is incorrect. What you saw was, when the looting took place back in the end of September, was what the process was trying to do was stabilize the country. If you remember correctly, we were talking about large Haitian-on-Haitian violence prior to the departure of Cedras and company. Since that process has taken place, and we've been able to get more and more forces out into the countryside and covering it, then I think you've seen that level of violence going down. It hasn't gone down to zero, I don't think it's going to go down to zero over the next couple of weeks. But clearly, the incident rate of violence and human rights violations is clearly down from what it was prior to the first part of September.

Q: Could you talk a bit about what exactly the Americans who are remaining there will do? What their tasks will be and how they will fit in with the other forces?

A: First off, the commander of the U.N. force is Major General Joe Kinzer. He is dual-hatted in the sense that he has a blue beret. He's the military commander. As you know, his boss is Mr. Brahimi, who is a special representative of the Secretary General.

There is a civilian police piece that is separate and distinct, also working for the U.N.. That's 930 people. Then there is a logistics piece that's in support of General Kinzer.

He has a deputy, Brigadier General Tom Hill, who is the commander of the U.S. piece of this also. He's the principal deputy on the U.S. side.

When you look at the Special Forces, as I said the 550 Special Forces, they will be the eyes and ears of the U.N. out in the small villages and countryside, doing the kinds of things they've been doing for the last 180 days. They'll be doing that type of work that they do so well, integrating the civil sector, assisting with the development of the country in concert with AID and the rest of the international community.

In the Port-au-Prince area, the brigade that will remain there from the 25th Division is commanded by Colonel Chuck Swannack, a very experienced colonel. They will control the center of gravity of Haiti, which is Port-au-Prince. They will also have the quick reaction force which is made up of helicopter capability, armored vehicle, and other kinds of capabilities that are down there. So primarily, what you'll see is the brigade in the Port-au-Prince area and Special Forces out in the countryside.

Q: What's the senior Special Forces officer?

A: Colonel Foley.

Q: What about the Special Forces? Wasn't there at one time a plan to try to transition the different towns they were in to some other kind of multinational force?

A: Yes.

Q: Why was the decision made to keep them and how long do they have to stay?

A: As we went through the process of working with the U.N., starting some three or four months ago, one of the things the U.N. realized was that Special Forces were kind of key to this proposition. They're a victim of their own success, frankly. The U.N. could not replicate that type of a capability. So in the process of discussing this with the U.N., we arrived at the decision to leave 550 Special Forces soldiers there.

If you remember correctly, we had almost 1,300 Special Forces people there back in the end of September, and they were in 27 towns and cities. We're gradually shrinking that. We're down to 21 now, I believe the number is, and ultimately we'll go down to 17, and ultimately down to 11.

The International Police Monitors (IPM), are going to be in the same locations as the special forces. In many cases they're working side by side. So this is a transitional process with the IPSF, is out there with their IPM monitors and Special Forces. They're essentially functioning, in a sense, as a form of governors for Lichi, Jeremy, and the smaller towns. As the police force graduates from the police academy starting the 2nd of June, I think the first class graduates some 375, they will be replaced on a one-for-one basis. So, by June, what you should start to see is the IPSF coming off the stage, the police force on-stage, and then we'll be able to readjust the Special Forces probably by mid-June, this summer. That's the plan. And ultimately, they'll all come out, as I said, in February/March '96.

Q: Are Special Forces still doing the trial pullouts of these small towns, or would the killing Monday cause the suspension of that?

A: They're still coming out. We started at 27, and we're down to 21, like I say. We're going to 17 and 11.

Q: They're pulling out of those towns on a trial basis and then going back in?

A: That's right. All of these towns are being visited on a patrol basis, but what we don't have is the ODA Teams living there on a permanent basis. So what we're doing is testing the theory of security and in some cases it's ahead of schedules, some cases slightly behind schedule.

Q: You mentioned the unmatched capability of these U.S. Special Forces. When you talk about the capability of troops, isn't that sort of the key point, and for that reason, isn't the chart that you put up there showing roughly the same number or types of troops a little misleading? How do those U.N. troops stack up with the U.S. troops in terms of capability?

A: You've seen them yourself. I would say that the forces down there, for example, the CARICOM forces, and the Bangladesh forces, and all the other people that we have down there are very qualified forces. We are not talking about having to fight against a class one country. This is a country where patrolling, presence, and basically leadership is required. For example, the Chief of Staff of the Bangladesh, or the Chief of Staff of the Bangladesh Army was visiting me in Norfolk yesterday. He's en-route to Haiti to visit his soldiers. He has about 11,000 forces from Bangladesh deployed on eight U.N. missions from Cambodia to BH and (inaudible). The quality of soldiers there are very good forces. They're clearly better than anything the Haitian army ever put in the street.

Q: Would you describe the U.N. mission as a nation-building mission or as a caretaking mission?

A: I'm not sure what the intellectual distinction is. Clearly there is a presence requirement to allow this democracy to grow. Security is the foundation of this process. As the security situation continues to improve in Haiti, then I think what you'll see is more international organizations investing in Haiti, more commerce taking place, etc. But also at the same time, there is a very real requirement for institutions, those functions of government that are so necessary for democracy to take place, to grow also. The Justice Ministry, for example, is an excellent case in point. I think those kinds of organizations are going to require mentors. Haiti is not a country that has a history of a strong civil service, so it's going to take time to build that kind of capability. So it is both a kind of a mentoring process, and I'd call it mentoring process, that's going to take place over a long period of time. The French/Canadians, for example, for reform of the judicial system, etc.

Q: The Cali narc traffickers are threatening many of our neighbors to the south, their stability. There was an incident several months ago of trans-shipment of cocaine, I believe, from the Port-au-Prince harbor area. Could you give us...

A: I don't know of the incident you refer to. There have been constant rumors of drug shipments in and out of Haiti. I will tell you that since the 18th of September, those drug guys have got to be one brave group of people. There's a whole other part of the Caribbean that's easy to get in and out of than going to Haiti. If they did it, they're either stupid or... I don't doubt that there are people who aren't down there trying to get involved, but there are easier targets to get drugs in and out of than in Haiti.

Q: On the question of numbers, does the 2,400 include the quick reaction force and the special...

A: It includes all the people in Port-au-Prince including the Special Forces.

Q: Can you talk at all about the infrastructure part of this, and when the Army and U.S. came in, they got the power running and all that. As you reduced forces, is that being handed over? There's been talk of increasing blackouts...

A: The power situation in Haiti is gradually getting better. We have done some work in terms of what the Haitians -- fixing the existing hydroelectric system and also doing an assessment of what it took for repairs for the other kind of diesel generated power plant system. I think their requirement is 141 kilowatts of power per day. They're currently producing about 31 to 35. They have let a contract with a power barge, and the Peligris dam is producing a little bit more power than usual. There are still blackouts in Haiti, but many of the cities are getting uninterrupted power now for the first time. A lot of times they shut it down only because of conservation reasons, to shift power around. But it's gradually getting better and part of their AID contract is to ultimately fix the power grid and telephone systems in Haiti itself.

Q: Do you have a cost figure on that?

A: I don't, but I can get the numbers from the AID contract and give them to Dennis.

Q: I don't know if you answered completely about the seizure of weapons. Is there going to be any active attempt on the part of the U.N. forces to either buy or seize weapons?

A: We have had a policy in Haiti that says if we develop intelligence that would indicate where a weapons cache is located, then we'll react to that intelligence. I think the same thing is going to be true under the U.N.. When I've talked to General Kinzer, they will do exactly the same thing. If there is intelligence that weapons are there, and they present a danger to the U.N. forces, they will act appropriately. We have not gone on house-to-house searches, and we've said many, many times before first off, because that's a violation of the rights of Haitian citizens because they have the right to bear arms under their constitution. There's a weapons registration program in Haiti.

So I think the combination of the buy-back program that has taken almost 30,000 weapons off the street, enforcement of their own rules by the Haitian authorities, and develop good intelligence so that if someone does have indications of a weapons cache, I think the U.N. will respond.

Q: Do you foresee another rotation of U.S. forces if they're there until '96? Would it come from the 25th?

A: We're working on that right now. The U.N. rotational policy is about six months. When I discussed this with General Nasim from Bangladesh last night, he's going to rotate his forces at about nine months, but generally, all the forces will rotate at about six months each, and we are looking at the rotation pattern for the brigades in the 25th that should finish up their rotation this summer.

Q: What lessons learned from Somalia have been applied to this exercise in Haiti?

A: There's about eight pages of the lessons learned out of Somalia. Clearly I think the lesson at the macro level is how do you work coherently with the U.N. As you know, that process in Somalia didn't go as well as it should have ,so we have spent a great deal of effort in trying to, well before the transition took place, by sitting down with the U.N. headquarters, planning this transition, sizing the force, agreeing on contracts, and all those types of things. So this transition will take place as smooth as possible. I think it's important that, as we deal with this continually chaotic world, that the U.N. will in fact play a significant role and we have a part to help out in that process. So that's the major lesson learned, how do you deal with the U.N., how do you make sure this transition takes place.

The other piece of it has to do with how do you size a force, how do you deal with all of the kinds of things that frequently happen to prevent kind of what I call mission creep, by clearly defining what the goals and objectives are. So I think we've been very successful in that area.

Q: In looking at the time line you put out with the charts, I notice we don't have an indication of when the mission creep starts. (Laughter) When would that be?

A: The mission creep isn't going to start. First off, if it does, it will be... Clearly, we have been very adamant. The Secretary of Defense has been very, very adamant, as has the Chairman in the discussion of what the mission is. That's why this whole issue of when are you guys going to go out and start doing house-to-house searches for weapons. It's a question that you always ask and have searched diligently to find out that in fact we're doing it. So I'm just saying that's an example of where mission creep did not take place. The issue of were we going to do policing functions in the classic sense of the term, and Haiti was an example where the dialogue and mission creep did not take place.

I think the real difficulty the U.N. is going to face is this issue of nation-building that you brought up, is in fact the U.N. mission in the nation-building business. Aristeed has requested from the U.N. more assistance in doing infrastructure repair and all those kinds of things. I think the question will then become, can the U.N. afford this within its budget, and indeed, does it have the kind of capability to do that?

I don't see any mission creep in a combatant sense of the term taking place.

Q: How about money? Who's going to pay for everything. On Friday is the United Nations going to pay you for the men and for the equipment...

A: This is a U.N.-assessed operation. The U.N. has already let, I think, contracts in excess of $25 million for a bridging contract to handle (inaudible) to do the logistics piece. The U.S. will pay its fair share of the assessment as will the rest of the U.N. But this is a U.N.-funded operation.

Q: Did the assassination yesterday change at all the security plans for President Clinton?

A: No. We have been very diligent, as you know, with that type of capability down there. There's been a lot of patrols out on the street. This is an unfortunate event. As I said before, the solution to this type of activity requires leadership on President Aristeed's part, the other elites in Haiti, the multinational force, and ultimately the U.N. as we go down this line.

Thank you very much.

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