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U.S. Support of Haiti Continues, Despite Change

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 1999 – The last active duty U.S. support troops are leaving Haiti, but this does not mean the end of U.S. interest in and concern for the Caribbean island nation.

Sean Darragh, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, said U.S. forces that visit Haiti in the days ahead will provide assistance throughout the nation rather than center their efforts around the capital of Port-au-Prince. About 400 service members are assigned to the U.S. military mission in Haiti.

Darragh said in a recent interview the U.S. mission in Haiti already has shifted from the restoration of democracy in 1994 to providing security, and it is changing again. The group leaving Haiti provides logistics support to other elements that deploy to the region. Officials say that support group is no longer needed.

"We will continue the humanitarian mission," Darragh said. "There is no question we support the democratically elected government of Haiti and its people."

Instead of having support people permanently assigned to Haiti, units will bring their own logistics arm with them. "They will also have their own security elements, just the way we operate in other Caribbean and Central American countries," he said.

U.S. service members will now visit Haiti as part of Operation New Horizons. Assistance teams will rotate through as part of New Horizons. Most of the teams will come from U.S. reserve components and will operate under U.S. Southern Command.

"The bottom line is we will maintain the same amount of deploying elements, but the beauty of this system is that New Horizons allows for training missions outside Port-au-Prince," Darragh said. "It is an opportunity to get into all of Haiti to spread the benefit."

New Horizons teams will work in Cap Haitienne on the north coast and Jacmel in the south, Darragh said.

The support group in Haiti helped build 40 schools, miles of roads and dug a number of wells. The group also helped provide basic health care for 150,000 Haitians since 1996.

At one point, some 20,000 U.S. personnel were in the island nation. A U.S. show of force was instrumental in the return of democracy to the nation. U.S. airborne and naval forces were about to invade in October 1994 when Haitian army Gen. Raul Cedras stepped down from power. U.S. forces landed unopposed, thus paving the way for the return of elected president Jean Bertrand Aristides.

Since Operation Uphold Democracy ended in March 1995, about 4,000 people rotated through the support group.

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