US Military to Keep Hundreds of Soldiers in Haiti

US Military to Keep Hundreds of Soldiers in Haiti

By Dialogo
April 21, 2010

Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, who stepped down Sunday as the commander of Joint Task Force Haiti, told Pentagon reporters on April 19th that the U.S. military will keep about 500 soldiers in Haiti throughout the summer months as part of U.S. efforts to help the nation recover from the quake. “I expect us to -- on or about 1 June -- to be able to stand down the Joint Task Force,” Keen said. “We will be able to do that, because of the capability that’s being built up and has [been] built up by civilian organizations, … [and] as they build up that capacity and get into more of the recovery and reconstruction phase, the need for our military diminishes.” Currently some 2,200 troops and four aircraft are operating in the area, Keen said. Starting this month, the Louisiana National Guard will begin a five-month exercise – “New Horizons” - focused on helping to rebuild Haiti. This exercise will have over $2 million worth of projects focused on engagement activities such as training medical personnel, building schools and clinics, and helping Haiti establish an emergency operations center and planning process to prepare for possible future natural disasters, Keen said. Haiti has been the focus of an expansive international relief effort in the wake of what is considered one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. A devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti killed an estimated 235,000 people and displaced more than a million inhabitants. At the height of the U.S. military effort there, some 22,000 forces were in or around Haiti, including 7,000 land-based troops, with the remainder operating aboard 58 aircraft and 15 nearby vessels. Keen, who also serves as the deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, said the current mission in Haiti continues to be saving lives and mitigating suffering. “While over 230,000 people died, many, many were saved; thousands were saved, because of the tremendous response medically, not just on our military and other militaries,” Keen said, “but the international community and nongovernmental organizations.” Keen, who was succeeded as the top U.S. commander in Haiti on April 19th by Army Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, reflected on the situation he witnessed in Haiti upon his departure. “As I left Haiti, I saw lots of hope as I walked around the streets, particularly when you look in the faces of the children, the smiles on their faces, the gratitude that they have, certainly from our military's presence there, but the presence of the international community there,” he said. “But the proof of the ability to realize their hopes is going to be in how you're able to apply all of these donor nations' contributions,” he added, “and how they've been able to build a strategic plan, and then how the government is able to lead forward, because this is about Haitians leading Haitians.”
Share