Pentagon: Administration Mulls Military Role in Haiti Beyond Relief
News in Balance:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2010 -- The U.S. government still is figuring out the details of American assistance in Haiti, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today, noting that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Barack Obama discussed the issue yesterday.
"I think that everybody would say by now that the aid is flowing in a very productive and helpful fashion," Morrell told Pentagon reporters. "But the question now becomes, now that this immediate relief has been provided, what do we want to do from here? What can we do from here?"
Morrell characterized security in Haiti as "stable, but fragile," saying groups displaying unrest are a reflection that aid distribution is an ongoing challenge.
"We have to be mindful of the security climate there," he said. "We have to provide the kind of security that will facilitate a safe, secure flow of food, water, medicine, whatever it may be to the population."
Morrell estimated that U.S. relief efforts to date have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and said thousands of additional forces are in the pipeline to be sent to Haiti.
"So we envision that there will be a role for the United States military for some time to come in Haiti," he said, adding that the United States is honored to carry out a relief mission in a country it's uniquely positioned to help.
"No one can provide the kinds of assistance we can, and we are happy to be doing it," he said. "It shows the world that obviously we are not a one-dimensional force; we are a force for good and try to provide assistance to those who need it around the world."
U.S. military assistance in Haiti likely is to continue for three to six months before yielding to international and non-government groups as they take on greater responsibility for the massive humanitarian relief effort there, the director of Defense Logistics Agency said yesterday.
"I think there's a commitment to continue to provide support and stay engaged until other organizations can take over the role," Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson told the Defense Writers Group.
"My sense would be that probably in the three- to six-month time period would be when there would be efforts to try to transition some of the support," the admiral said.
(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)