American troops to Haiti

The United States is sending 10,000 troops to Haiti to help with disaster relief. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says, however, that they will have no policing role:

The U.S. military expects to have around 10,000 troops in Haiti and in ships offshore by Monday for the massive relief effort.

Haitian President Rene Preval said on Sunday that U.S. troops will help U.N. peacekeepers keep order on Haiti's streets, where overstretched police and U.N. peacekeepers have been unable to provide full security.

In Port-au-Prince, the crippled capital, and environs U.S. troops protected food and water supplies being handed out as marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and tens of thousands of survivors waited desperately for food and medical care.

Gates told reporters on a flight to India there would be a security element to U.S. relief efforts, but added: “I haven't heard of us playing a policing role at any point.”

Asked about rules of engagement, he said “as anywhere we deploy our troops, they have the authority and the right to defend themselves.”

“And they also have the right to defend innocent Haitians and members of the international community if they see something happen,” he said.

But why don’t they have a policing role? Isn’t the restoration of order the first thing Haiti needs in order for the relief supplies pouring in to get to those who need it?

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  • fws

    excellent point! this needs to come first.

  • fws

    excellent point! this needs to come first.

  • Kirk

    I work in the international development field and I’ve been on the phone with NGO partners in Haiti for the past few days. The general impression that I get is that lawlessness isn’t quite as prevalent as we’re lead to believe by the news media. There is, of course, looting and acts of violence, but in general the situation relatively stable, crime wise. People keep telling me that the real issue is that trucks carrying food aid can’t get anywhere because they get mobbed as soon as they’re out of the gates. I’d guess that American troops will be keeping order around aid distribution points and escorting supply columns, so as to prevent rioting, etc. When I asked the people on the ground what their needs were, almost every single time I was told security for their supplies.

    I also keep hearing that the security situation will improve as more supplies roll in. Right now, people are desperate. They need food and water, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get them. Hopefully as the logistical situation is rectified, security will improve.

  • Kirk

    I work in the international development field and I’ve been on the phone with NGO partners in Haiti for the past few days. The general impression that I get is that lawlessness isn’t quite as prevalent as we’re lead to believe by the news media. There is, of course, looting and acts of violence, but in general the situation relatively stable, crime wise. People keep telling me that the real issue is that trucks carrying food aid can’t get anywhere because they get mobbed as soon as they’re out of the gates. I’d guess that American troops will be keeping order around aid distribution points and escorting supply columns, so as to prevent rioting, etc. When I asked the people on the ground what their needs were, almost every single time I was told security for their supplies.

    I also keep hearing that the security situation will improve as more supplies roll in. Right now, people are desperate. They need food and water, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get them. Hopefully as the logistical situation is rectified, security will improve.

  • Scots

    If our troops have a policing role then that can be interpreted that we want to TAKE OVER HAITI! You know, Haiti has so much to offer us right now, so I can see why they would think that…(you know who “they” are.)

  • Scots

    If our troops have a policing role then that can be interpreted that we want to TAKE OVER HAITI! You know, Haiti has so much to offer us right now, so I can see why they would think that…(you know who “they” are.)