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#324: U.S. to end permanent military mission to Haiti Reuters082499 from Slavin (fwd)
U.S. to end permanent military mission to Haiti
By Patricia Zengerle
MIAMI, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. military's five-year mission in Haiti will
end in coming months as U.S. troops close their permanent camp and begin a
series of humanitarian visits to the Caribbean nation, defence officials said
Military officials have been recommending an end to the mission for some
time, expressing concern over the safety of troops in Haiti and questioning
the cost-effectiveness of an effort that carried a $22 million price tag last
In February, Gen. Charles Wilhelm, commander in chief of the U.S. Southern
Command (SouthCom), recommended withdrawal.
``As our continuous military presence in Haiti moves into its fifth year, we
see little progress toward creation of a permanently stable internal security
environment,'' Wilhelm told Congress.
SouthCom spokesman Raul Duany said on Tuesday that no date had been set for
the troops' departure, which could come in December or January.
U.S. troops arrived in Haiti in a glare of international publicity in
September 1994, when 20,000 landed to end a dictatorship and restore Haiti's
first freely elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in a military
coup three years earlier.
Five years later, the force has dwindled, as has world interest in their
mission. The U.S. Support Group-Haiti, a contingent of about 400 soldiers,
remains in the country, providing a U.S. presence and performing such
humanitarian tasks as school-building, road repair and medical care.
Military officials said the United States would shift its focus from
maintaining a permanent presence in Port-au-Prince to sending troops to the
hemisphere's poorest nation on specific humanitarian missions as part of the
military's ``New Horizons'' programme, in effect in the region for about 15
``We stand by General Wilhelm's recommendation to engage Haiti by what we
call 'alternate engagement' instead of a permanent presence,'' Duany said.
Those missions would cost much less than maintaining a permanent base, he
said. The United States spent about $38 million carrying out temporary
humanitarian missions in five countries in 1998, compared with $22 million in
The switch from a base in Port-au-Prince will also make it easier for the
military to work far from the Haitian capital, such as in the northern city
of Cap-Haitien, he said.