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11 March 2004

Progress Made in Haiti's Security and Stability, General Says

Multinational Interim Force to assist in disarming civilians

By Scott Miller
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The rapid deployment of international security forces and closely coordinated U.S. interagency efforts have yielded progress in the security and stability of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, according to General James Hill, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

In a March 10 briefing, Hill said he witnessed this progress in Port-Au-Prince during his visit the previous week. He added that the United States and its international partners continue to assess the situation in Haiti and are establishing conditions for the arrival of a larger, U.N.-led multinational force.

Currently more than 2,400 troops -- 1,600 U.S., 516 French, 328 Chileans and 52 Canadian soldiers -- are on the ground in Haiti as part of a multinational interim force (MIF), Hill noted.

The general pointed out that the MIF is in Haiti at the request of the country's new president and in support of U.N. Resolution 1529 authorizing its presence. He outlined the MIF mandate for reporters at the Pentagon.

"Our mission has been to secure key sites in Port-au-Prince for the purposes of contributing to a more secure and stable environment in the Haitian capital, to help promote the constitutional political process; assisting, as may be needed, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance; protecting U.S. and partner nations' citizens, as may be required; facilitating the repatriation of any Haitian migrants interdicted at sea; and helping to create the conditions for the anticipated arrival of a U.N. multinational force," he said.

Within this context, Hill said, the MIF is conducting patrols with the Haitian national police "to deter violence and promote security" in the capital. He added that these patrols, aside from isolated incidents, have had "a calming and stabilizing effect."

As the MIF assists the Haitian national police to restore law and order in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, he continued, they are authorized to support the police in disarming illegally armed civilians, in accordance with Haitian law.

"Any illegal armed civilians encountered by presence patrols will be immediately disarmed to ensure force protection of the multinational force," he said. "The Haitian national police will remain the lead in the disarmament process."

Hill said that as intelligence develops, the MIF will pursue weapons caches. In addition to force protection, such efforts will contribute to security and stability in Haiti. The MIF also will intervene to protect life when it encounters acts of violence, he said.

The MIF's intervention in both Haitian-on-Haitian violence and disarmament efforts are an evolution of the force's rules of engagement (ROE), Hill acknowledged. However, he said that the changes, in part, document initial intentions and the existing operational reality.

"We had a modification of the ROE that ensured in writing that we had the ability to go and intervene in Haitian-on-Haitian violence," he said. "But we always understood that going in, that we could do that. No one from the multinational force, going in, was going to stand there and watch one Haitian kill another Haitian without trying to interfere in that."

Similarly, Hill said that disarmament efforts originally were viewed as within the mandate of the MIF.

"Guns were always going to come out of the hands of Haitians," he said. "That was always part of the mission."

Overall, Hill said the MIF's efforts in Haiti represent a "really pretty remarkable, good, solid piece of military planning and execution ... and what we have done on the ground already is a solid piece of work."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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