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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Gen. John J. Sheehan, USMC, CINC - U.S. Atlantic Command

Presenters: Gen. John J. Sheehan, USMC, CINC - U.S. Atlantic Command
February 28, 1996 2:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, February 27, 1996 - 2:30 p.m.


[The subject of this briefing: The Conclusion of U.S. Military Operations in Haiti]

General Sheehan: Good afternoon. What I'd like to do is kind of review, as Ken said, the Haiti story from September of `94 to where we are today. Many of you and I were in this room back in September talking about the introduction of U.S. forces to Haiti and there were all sorts of speculation as to what the outcome was going to be: could you get out of the place; etceteras. And, what I'm here to report is that success part of the story that says, we are, in fact, leaving -- and I'd like to go over that schedule with you, now.

First, the current mandate will expire on the 29th of this month. The Security Council, currently, is discussing the extension of that mandate at the request of the government of Haiti. That extension will be for a period of about six months. All U.S. forces that are currently in Haiti -- and today there are about 1,907 on the ground in Haiti -- will be out by the 15th of April. The majority will be out by the 15th of March. As a matter of fact, on the 29th, when I fly to Haiti to bring out General Kinzer, the Army commander, no U.S. forces will be conducting security operations except for their own self protection in the Port-au-Prince area.

 

We will, on a bilateral relationship, maintain contact with the Cuban government in terms of an exercise schedule and I'll get into a few more details in that later on.

Q: You said, "Cuban."

A: Sorry. Haitian. [Laughter]

General Sheehan: Since I brought that, we'll return to Haiti. This is a chronology if you'll all remember back in here when President Carter, Colin Powell, and Sam Nunn, and General Bates went down to Cuba. We then followed up the next day with the introduction of U.S. forces on the 19th of September. That number grew to almost 21,000. Immediately after that, we started pulling forces out. We took the naval forces out, took the Marines out at Cape Haitian and left, essentially, the 10th Mountain Division and the other augmentation as part of the multinational force.

Here, in January of `95, we declared Haiti a safe and secure environment with a transition to the enemy forces. Army took over on the 31st of March of `95. That was a force of about 6,000. The U.S. slice of that, if you remember correctly, was about 2,000. And so, this is where we've been during this period.

 

During this period, there have been four elections in Haiti. Four elections in which various representations and parts of the problem were selected and finally, out in here, the president elect, President Preval was elected. He was inaugurated on the 7th of February of `96. And so, as I indicated, at the end of this month, the Army mission as is currently constructed will, in fact, end. And, starting on the 1st of March, we'll start re-deploying forces with the bulk of the forces out by the 15th of April and I'll get into a little more detail about that.

This is what it looks like and this is about where we are. The Dutch marines have left the Jacmel area. There are now no U.S. forces in the southern claw. U.S. forces, the Pakistani force, Canadians, Bangladesh, and Djibouti forces are the only remaining forces currently in Haiti.

U.S. forces -- as I indicated -- on the 1st of March, will cease security operations. Today and tomorrow, they will be continuing operations in zone five which is a Port-au-Prince area. But, for all intent and purposes, the Bangladesh contingent currently is the QRF in the palace guard in the Haiti area. Pakistanis are up north at Cape Haitian and the Djiboutians in the Port-au-Prince area to enforce security. U.S. forces will withdraw into this area. The Canadian forces are currently in place as part of the multinational force, but they'll be augmented from the rotational force from Canada.

This force, by the time the transition takes place, will be about 2,000 forces mostly made up of Canadians, Pakistani's and Bangladeshi's. There will be some Americans there until the 15th of April. Those are the U.S. hospital, the landing craft that are providing logistic support and some medium lift capability that will stay in country working with the U.N. as part of the requirement that we have. But, they don't have a security role, they are strictly support troops.

U.S. forces peace draw-down will end, as I said, here. We will then engage with the government of Haiti, at President Preval's request, to do some medical and engineering support. We will rotate construction-type forces -- Seabees, Red Horse, whatever have you -- into the country to do construction projects at the specific request of President Preval using Haitian or international money. What President Preval did was he went around to every district in the country and asked, What is the one project that you have that we can do for you, we being the Haitian government, that will really make a difference in your life? Most of those projects, essentially, are repairing a bridge, paving a road, putting in electric power or restoring electric power, fixing wells, and those of that nature. So, we in the international community and the U.N. will continue that type of engineering work. But, the number of people that are there will be about 200 people. It may grow to 300 or 400 depending on the rotation, the engineering projects. We expect that only to last about another year. The U.N. mandate, as I said, the extension -- if everything works out -- will run for an additional six months. So, that's the plan. That's where we are today. And, what I'd like to do is turn it over to questions.

Q: You used the "C" word. So, we have to ask you this. Does the sequence of events over the weekend tell you that this was an, essentially, a Cuban track?

A: Ken has advised me not to speak about Cuba and, so, I need to play by the rules.

Q: Representative Weldon, this morning, gave an estimate of the cost to the Pentagon of about $80 million dollars to train the Haitian police force. Does that sound like an on-the-mark estimate?

A: I'd have -- the original numbers that I saw were about $35 million dollars to train about 6,000 to 7,000 HNP -- Haitian National Police -- both in terms of providing equipment and training, etceteras. So, that number sounds a little high to me. I'd have to do some research. But, the original numbers that I saw are about $35 million.

Q: Who will conduct this training?

A: The Haitian National Police, the formal training for that 6,000 or 7,000 people is completed. What they're talking about doing, now, is having, as part of the U.N. mission, a civil police -- about 300 civil police from French speaking nations, and what they will do is they stay in Haiti to mentor that police force. The police force, as you know, is currently kind of one of the weak links in this transitional process. It's not as sophisticated or, very frankly, nor is it as properly led as it needs to be and so it needs some more mentoring.

Q: Are these construction forces going to remain there for a year, are they among the folks that are already there or...

A: No, there are rotational forces. We are bringing all the..., for example, the Red Horse unit that finished building, or repairing, Truman Boulevard, they're coming out starting tomorrow. Then, we will bring down various organizations -- Reserve forces, National Guard, some active duty units -- to work on specific projects. We are still working with the Haitian government, scoping those projects to make sure that they are the right projects.

Q: What's your analysis of how the country will fare once the mandate is over?

A: I think that we have consistently been pleasantly surprised about the evolution of democracy in Haiti. Remember, back in September, when we stood here and talked about this, there were all sorts of dire predictions about Haitian-on-Haitian violence, etceteras. Most of those predictions did not come true. I think, in the case of Haiti, its evolution down the road to democracy will be slow. There will be, occasionally, some problems with it. But, I think, at the end of the day, Preval has the talent that it takes to bring together a good cabinet and will move Haiti down the road to democracy.

The other optimistic part that I find is, when I talked to the elites of Haiti, they are very different than they were two years ago. I think they genuinely understand for the first time that this is the last opportunity that that country has to genuinely to make it and so, they are engaged. They're building local projects. They are investing some of their own money in their own country. So, I'm optimistic.

Q: The foreign investment is still...

A: The foreign investment is behind what we thought it was going to be, but that will take some confidence building measures on the part of the Haitian government and it will take Preval to come to grips with the privatization issue.

Q: Can you be more specific with the elites and their investments?

A: Yes. At one time, the major families of Haiti were purely extractive in terms of what they took from the country -- and kind of left. What you see now is that some of the larger families are building schools for younger Haitians to teach them trades that are applicable to the assembly sector. They are putting a money investment in terms of restoration of some of the roads and infrastructure. It's at least a hopeful sign and, I think, they really understand that they have to do this or the country isn't going to make it.

Q: What families and how much money?

A: I don't know the total dollar value, but the three of the four major families are, in fact, investing, Meds Branch, etceteras.

Q: General, what of the attempt to reform the security forces -- police especially. The violence done to those in the political process, the terrorism, etceteras. Has that -- can you quantify or qualify that?

A: The 6,000 plus Haitian National Police that we have down there, that are part of the police force, by and large, aren't bad kids. They are the best that Haiti had to offer. We put them through the training program. The real issue with the Haitian police leadership, starting with the Chief of Police, Danny Touissant, and working the way down, most of those people are now being flushed out of the system and being replaced by police that have some leadership skill, but very frankly, very little substantive background. So, that's what the civil peace will be is to mentor those guys, to help promote, to teach them how to become legitimate lieutenants and sergeants.

 

The economic violence that you speak about goes on. It is not as bad as it used to be, but nevertheless it's still an extremely poor country and because the judicial system still is in infant stages, there are instances where the people in local slum areas do, in fact, take justice into their own hands and kill people who steal things.

Q: And the political peace?

A: The political peace, I don't think, is anywhere near what it was advertised back in the days when the attaches were running around in work for hire. I don't know of any political violence that has occurred over the last four months.

Q: Are the 6,000 or 7,000 police officers enough?

A: That's what the Haitian government says that they need. I think, as Preval goes through this transitional process, I think, he has to come to grips with what the real number is. I don't think that they have a real feeling for it, frankly, because I think that they have had no experience. The professional police force, as you know, in the old days, the country was run by the FADH and, essentially, even within the FADH, there was only one heavy weapons company that controlled the city of Port-au-Prince and they did that through violence. So, I think that over time, it might be the right number. But, they'll have to -- their capability has to be significantly increased in terms of dealing with the problems.

Q: General, when you said the engineering projects would be paid with Haitian or international money. Are we part of that international money?

A: Yes. The U.S. government is engaged in terms of its AID projects and economic assistance, etceteras. But, there's a large quantity of money. We're talking about $80 or 90 million dollars to do some of the major repair work. We have gotten countries, such as in Japan, to invest in power distribution. Canada has contributed. France has contributed. Germany has contributed. And so, they are now generating more power than they have in the last five years in Port-au-Prince.

Q: Do you support extending the U.N. mandate for six months and if so, why?

A: I support it because, first off, I think that this is a success story. I think this is a case where the U.N. and the U.S. went to a country, clearly understood what its mission was, then worked very, very well together; and I think it's an absolute success story from that perspective. And, in the world, when you deal with the U.N., I think you want to reinforce success. I think, you want to stay engaged in Haiti because it's in its infant stages. It will require some mentoring and some processes to do that. But, I think, that can be done by the international organization and, I think, the Bangladeshi forces, the Pakistanis and the Canadians are the right force to do that.

Q: So, even if the mandate is extended, there won't be additional U.S. forces?

A: No.

Q: What role will Aristide play, in your view, over the next several years? And, can you update on whether if Cedras and his friends in Panama... what their status is?

A: I was with Aristide about ten days ago and he truly intends to start some type of foundation for literacy programs in the slums of the city

-- Soleil and Carfour -- in Port-au-Prince. His wife, Mildred, and he are both very, very dedicated to the poor people of Haiti and I think that he's going to be true to his word. He's still very much a very popular figure in Haiti and as such, is someone that the people are going to turn to. But, he has been very supportive of President Preval, but, I think, he will mostly focus on the poor people in trying to change their lot in life. I think that the words that Mildred used, when I talked to her, was that she said, Hand-in-hand my husband and I, and the poor people of Haiti, are going to take the next step and the next chapter of the evolution of Haiti. It's unbelievable.

Q: I remember you as being one of the biggest doubters about this [inaudible] being pulled off.

A: Nope. Oh contraire. [Laughter] I think you are on the opposite side of the mike.

Q: But... so, you are duly impressed with...

A: I am impressed in the sense that I always thought we could do it. What I didn't know was what the price was that we would have to pay in terms of cash lease, especially in the Haitian-on-Haitian violence, because we thought that, quite frankly, society is so polarized that it was, in fact, going to be some transitional violence. It didn't take place, and so, from that perspective, I'm very, very happy.

 

Q: Will you do an after-action report, as commander-in-chief, and will that be available to the public?

A: Yes, we are going to... as a matter of fact, we've actually done three levels of after-exercise reports. First, at the tactical level, what do the troops need to do in terms of training -- non-lethal technologies for crowd control and all those kinds of things. We are bringing in all the former commanders -- and plus the interagency -- down to Norfolk, I think, it's next month and we're going to walk through this whole thing to kind of find out what we could have done better. Because, it's like any other operation of this nature. There are three parts of an operation: there's the military piece; there's the economic piece; and, there's the political piece. And, they need to be in concert to get to where you need to go for a success story. In some cases, there was good news and bad news.

Q: Are there any general lessons you can draw from this? I mean, you know, if things had gone wrong, you would say, "Here are the lessons learned." Things didn't go wrong. Are there things that you would recommend doing on a similar mission in the future?

A: I think what we purposely did when we put this operation together, we went back into the Somalia experience and scrubbed all the kinds of lessons learned, and found out where the points of friction were between U.S. forces and U.N. forces -- the command and control structure, the sharing of intelligence, and all those kinds of things. So, we purposely went out of our way to fix those kinds of problems.

I think the lesson that comes out of this is that peacekeeping operations can be successful. They can be successful in a world of this nature, if you define your goals very carefully and you stick to your goals. But, it takes engagement. It takes personal interest, staying on top of the problem, making sure little problems don't become big problems. Because when you're talking about an operation of this nature, where there are 15 different nations, 34 different languages, in multiple kinds of approaches to problems, it requires a great deal of attention.

So, I think, that's the lesson that I've learned out of this process that when you go to Haiti, in my case, I spent as much time talking to the Bangladeshi contingent and the Pakistani contingent and the Djiboutians that I do talking to my U.S. forces, because, clearly, we all need to learn from this process. There's plenty of things that you can learn in this kind of a world.

Q: If I could, on another subject.

A: Sure.

Q: Today is the second anniversary of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." As a matter of fact, there have been some complaints that it hasn't really changed the numbers on people being booted out. As the CINC, from your perspective, how do you think this policy has affected things, if at all? Better? Worse? No difference?

A: Ken Bacon is going to cover the statistics right after I get off stage.

Q: [Inaudible] Ahh, he's not a CINC --

A: What's that?

Q: [Inaudible]

A: I haven't read the statistics, frankly. My reaction is from someone who deals with troops on a day-to-day basis, I think there's something wrong with the statistics. I can't tell you what it is, because I haven't had time to delve into it. But, I will tell you, from a troop perspective, they understand what the policy is and I don't know of anybody that has purposely subverted the process.

Q: You're not aware... you're not personally aware of any harassment going on?

A: No. And, I spend a lot of time talking to troops, and I've got to tell you something, today's young kids, if they think they've got a problem, they'll come and find you and tell you.

Press: Thank you.