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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 
on Tuesday. 

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. 

18:47 08-24-99