Haiti Mission Ends
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 1996 U.S. and U.N. operations in Haiti are an example of success, the head of U.S. Atlantic Command said, on the eve of the U.S. forces' final withdrawal from the Caribbean nation.
Marine Corps Gen. John Sheehan said the lesson learned during the year-and-a-half mission in the fledgling democracy is international peacekeeping missions can be successful. U.S. operations will draw to a close during the next two months. Most of the 1,907 troops remaining as part of the U.N. mission will be gone by March 15 -- all should be home by April 15.
The U.N. peacekeeping mandate for Haiti has ended, but the Security Council has requested a six-month extension. Sheehan said more U.S. forces will not be involved in a continuing U.N. mission, but he supports the extension request.
“This is a success story,” he said. “This is a case where the United Nations and the United States went to a country, clearly understood what the mission was and worked very well together.” U.N. forces provide the expertise to mentor Haiti through the democracy’s “infant stages” and reinforce the current success.
About 200 to 400 U.S. troops will support medical and engineering efforts for the next year at the request of the Haitian government, Sheehan said. He said Air Force and Navy construction forces rotating to the island will tackle infrastructure projects specifically requested by President Rene Preval. Work will include repairing bridges, paving roads, putting in electric power and repairing wells. Reserve component and active duty units will provide support and work on selected projects.
U.S. involvement in Haiti began in September 1994, when the United States prepared to invade the island to restore the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been deposed by a coup. Troop-laden aircraft were in the air when a last-ditch effort by former President Jimmy Carter, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Colin Powell and Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn brokered an agreement with Gen. Raoul Cedras, leader of the regime in power.
President Clinton called off the invasion, and more than 20,000 U.S. troops peacefully entered Haiti to maintain security and re-establish the democratic government.
U.S. troops in Haiti peaked at about 22,000, followed by a gradual drawdown and replacement by multinational forces from 28 nations. About 2,400 U.S. service members donned blue peacekeeper berets in March 1995 and became part of a U.N. mission.
Sheehan said Atlantic Command is preparing an after-action report covering the tactical level -- what troops need to do -- and such training as nonlethal techniques for crowd control. Prior to entering Haiti, Sheehan said, U.S. officials studied lessons learned in Somalia.
“We went back into the Somalia experience and found out where the points of friction were between the U.S. forces and U.N. forces, the command and control structure, the sharing of intelligence and all those kinds of things,” Sheehan said.
The successful Haiti experience, he said, was based on sticking to clearly defined goals, personal interest and engagement, making sure little problems don’t become big problems and staying on top of problems. The operation involved 15 nations, 34 languages and multiple approaches to problems. Managing such a situation takes a great deal of attention, he said.