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#346: U.S. to Rotate Haiti Force (fwd)


U.S. to Rotate Haiti Force
By Roberto Suro Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 1999; Page A21 

Over the next few months, the United States will replace its permanent
military contingent in Haiti with rotating teams of troops, continuing a
gradual reduction in the military commitment that began five years ago,
administration officials said yesterday. White House spokesman Joe
Lockhart said the U.S. military will periodically send teams to the
Caribbean nation for humanitarian and development projects.  "The
forces, our presence, there will not be withdrawn. But as we've said
 for some time now, we want to move away from the current configuration
of a permanent deployment and more to a rotational and more
project-specific configuration," Lockhart said.Under the new plan, the
U.S. military presence in Haiti will be no different  from what exists
in other Latin American nations, according to a senior      Pentagon
official. "Units will go in on a routine basis to do things like 
building roads or conducting an immunization campaign, and then they'll 
come home," the official said.U.S. forces occupied Haiti in September
1994 to restore the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, who had been deposed  and forced into exile by the Haitian
military. Of a force that initially numbered 20,000, only about 450 U.S.
troops remain. But the decision to end the full-time deployment followed
a debate  within the administration over whether the move might be seen
as  abandonment of Haiti as it struggles to achieve economic and
political stability. During a visit to Washington in June, a delegation
of Haitian business  people pleaded with the administration and Congress
to leave a symbolic contingent in place through the parliamentary
elections in November and the presidential vote a year later. Their
argument, however, was overwhelmed by strong views at the  Pentagon and
among Republican leaders in Congress. General Charles E.    Wilhelm,
head of the U.S. Southern Command, has publicly recommended
a pullout, saying it would be safer for U.S. troops to be based
elsewhere and go into Haiti for limited missions. In June, a provision
ordering a  withdrawal by the end of the year was inserted by the House
of Representatives into its version of the annual defense spending bill,
which  has yet to be finalized. Speaking to reporters on Martha's
Vineyard, where President Clinton is vacationing, Lockhart said the new
"configuration" should not be viewed as a reflection of diminishing U.S.
concern for Haiti. "I think the important thing to note here is the U.S.
remains committed to the policy of helping promote democracy there," he
said. At the Pentagon, the meaning of the new policy seemed unambiguous.
"The Department of Defense is leaving Haiti, and it is going to be just
like  any other country in the region as far as the military is
concerned," said a senior defense official.