Demand Dwindles for U.S. Forces in Haiti, Official Says
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2010 The need for U.S military forces in Haiti is dwindling as Haitian authorities and nongovernmental organizations begin to accept a greater share of relief efforts in the ravaged country, an American military official said. Video
About 13,000 U.S. troops are involved in the earthquake-relief effort -- with 7,000 forces on the ground -- down from a peak overall level of about 20,000 at the start of this month, Army Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, the top U.S. commander in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters today.
“As we see this transition occurring, we see our civilian partners increase their capabilities -- both the government here in Haiti as well as the nongovernment organizations -- and we see the need for our military assistance dwindling,” Keen said via video teleconference from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
The update on Haiti’s recovery comes about a month after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation, creating what an official called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. U.S. aid began pouring into affected areas in the immediate aftermath, but a greater share of relief efforts has been transferred to partners as conditions progress.
The American commander declined to describe a timeline or expected scope of the U.S. military presence in Haiti, saying conditions in the country would determine the response.
“As we look at our military requirements in supporting [the U.S. Agency for International Development] and the government of Haiti,” Keen said, “we're dialing it back where unnecessary as we right-size the force as requirements are needed on the ground, and we're dialing it up where it's necessary, based upon the needs on the ground.”
Keen estimated military operations to date have totaled about $250 million.
As of yesterday, U.S. military forces had delivered more than 2.6 million bottles of water, 2.2 million food rations, 15.1 million pounds of bulk food and 125,230 pounds of medical supplies into Haiti.
In addition to running ongoing humanitarian assistance missions, Keen said U.S. forces also are assisting in procuring shelter for Haitians affected by the earthquake. Troops also are working to provide medical care, removing rubble from damaged sites and assisting in engineering and logistics.
Keen said the U.S. military is working under USAID, the lead American component, and alongside partners such as the United Nations.
“So we will continue to be involved in those two entities until [operations are] completely transferred to either the government of Haiti or other organizations,” he said.