Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
The Roosevelt Room
3:40 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is not exactly the roundtable, intimate setting that all of us anticipated. But let each of us in the beginning spend a few minutes trying to bring you up to date on where things are in Haiti, and then answer questions you might have.
The President just got back from Norfolk, where he's had a full briefing from U.S. -- from a teleconference he had with General Shelton and others in Haiti on the situation. He was very impressed by what he heard.
Generally, the situation -- let me just quickly go through a couple of the elements of the situation and the others will take up other aspects of it.
On the security side, the situation is generally calm. Clearly, our presence has altered the balance of power. We have, by virtue of both weapons buy-back and asserting control over FAD'H weapons and going after weapons caches that we're familiar with, have recovered over 4,000 weapons in the country. There obviously are considerably more than that, but that is 4,000 weapons that are no longer on the street.
The general security environment in the last several days has been relatively calm; there has not been widespread looting or violence. All major food storage facilities now, all of the AID food storage facilities are now under the protection of U.S. quick reaction forces.
There are, as of today, 447 police monitors in Haiti who will travel with, are traveling with Haitian military and security forces. There will be 800 police monitors there by -- before the end of October. This is in addition to 300 translators who will operate as facilitators between the police monitors and the Haitian police.
Ray Kelly, who was a former chief of police of the New York police department, is in Haiti working with these police monitors, and will begin the process of professionalizing the Haitian police forces once Aristide returns.
My colleague will have more to say about other elements of the multinational force that are present.
In terms of President Aristide, he has been extremely cooperative with us in every aspect, and in fact, there is now a transition office in Port-au-Prince consisting of his former defense minister and others who are working with Ambassador Swing and General Shelton.
On the political side, of course, Francois is out. The radio and TV -- state radio and TV are now in the hands of legitimate government. Parliament is meeting again today on the amnesty law. We can talk more about that if you would like. And the City Hall is back in the hands of the elected mayor of Port-au-Prince, Evans Paul, who probably is the second most popular political figure in Haiti after President Aristide.
On the sanctions side, as you know, we've lifted all of the unilateral -- or in the process of lifting all of the unilateral sanctions except those that are targeted specifically on the 600 individuals who are most associated with the military regime. And we are using authority we have under the U.N. resolutions to expand the humanitarian, fuel, and other supplies that are coming into the country. So that we now, for example, have the lights on in CapHaitien for the first time in a long time, and the lights in Port-auPrince -- the electricity has been restored, so that instead of lights being on three hours a day they're now on, I guess, 12 to 18 hours a day. And there is beginning to be some visible signs that life is improving.
On the economic side, we have, as you know, organized a donors group that has committed $550 million for the first year of economic recovery. One of the things that they're doing during this transition period is clearing the arrears that Haiti has, about $86 million, so that there will be less of a time line between the time that Aristide returns and the time that the international financial institutions will be able to go back into the country.
Finally, on the humanitarian side, we've intensified in this interim period the humanitarian programs. We're now feeding over a million people a day. When schools open next week we will be feeding 1.3 million. That is obviously easier now that --logistically, now that the sanctions are lifted and we are able to bring food into the country more easily.
Finally, on the migrants at Guantanamo, as of today about 2,000 have returned voluntarily to Haiti. That process will continue. There are about 14,000 Haitians that are still in Guantanamo.
As the last thing, I would say the thing that impressed those folks who were in Norfolk most today was the report from the field level commanders of the response of the Haitian people to what we're doing. This is something that we've read about and see on television, but I'm told that the President was hearing the younger officers speak to the kind of reception that they're getting from the country, it reinforces and validates in no small measure what we're doing.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say that, with only a little over a week to go before the 15th of October, there's obviously been a further intensification of contact between our government and President Aristide and his colleagues. Ambassador Swing is conducting a more or less permanent open house in Port-auPrince. He's got members of the private sector, parliamentarians, political figures coming to see him; he's going out to see them.
And here in Washington, a number of officials of our government are meeting on a fairly regular basis with President Aristide in preparation for his return. You can imagine what the principal topics of conversation are -- obviously, the amnesty law, the police law, provisions for his return, economic reconstruction program.
When I say intensification, there's been a lot of contact going back, of course, many, many months. Tony Lake has seen him on a number of occasions; Secretary Christopher -- Secretary Christopher will be seeing him again in the next day or so. Bill Gray is still involved, available particularly when it comes to dealing with President Aristide.
The new special envoy of the U.N. Secretary General, Mr. Brahimi, is now very much engaged in this process. The gentleman has taken over from Dante Caputo. He met with several of us earlier in the week up in New York. He's in Washington today and tomorrow meeting both with the Aristide party and members of our government.
My colleague suggested I would talk a little bit about the deployment of the multinational force. I think it would probably be better to fold that into what my other colleagues have to say. The long and short of it is the CARICOM battalion is in place in Haiti. The Bangledeshis will be arriving in a day or two, and if anybody is interested in the details on when the others will actually be coming, I have a list here and can give you more on that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My view is that this is a unusual operation that I've known about in 30 years -- the political and diplomatic part, military part and the economic recovery part are well integrated, well-thought-through. I want to say a few words about the military part, and my colleague may want to add some additional comments.
First of all, we think that the execution here has been extraordinary. It has involved a joint use of force -- very unusual. You have army helicopters taken off over the decks of an aircraft carrier, but in an integrated operation, changing the plan at the last moment. The troops have entered into Haiti, have taken over the two large cities first -- Cap-Haitien and Port-de-Paix -- without any fatality from combat. We are extremely pleased -- all the military commanders and civilians in the department -- with the military operation up until now.
A not-well-known fact is the dispersement which is occurring from the two main towns. Here's a map which just gives you a sense of how the special forces units which are concerned with the civil-military quarter throughout the country are going into the small towns, everywhere; are being met, as my colleague pointed out, very, very warmly by the population, being able to bring some medical assistance, some civil affairs assistance to all parts of the country.
In general, there has been vastly less violence than we feared. And while there's always the possibility for more, we are extremely pleased with what the presence of U.S. forces has done to deter violence throughout the country. We're not just talking about the big towns, but everywhere.
I would like to make one point about the policy on civil order, which is discussed endlessly, but it's really quite simple, it has not changed -- is that U.S. troops are going to become involved in maintaining public order, provided in the judgment of the commander on the scene that, A, they have the capability of doing so, and B, it does not place those U.S. troops at unreasonable risk.
I would also note that we are doing very well with our program on reducing arms throughout the country. As my colleague has mentioned, we're never going to get rid of them all -- the heavy weapons of the FAD'H have been completed seized. Almost all of the FAD'H arsenals have been reviewed to remove from them armaments which do not belong in a reasonable police force. We are beginning to go after the caches of the paramilitary cadres, the FRAPH. And as you know, individuals -- if they show any hostile intent when they are carrying weapons on the street, and again, in the judgment of the individual U.S. commander, they have the capability to do so if they show hostile intent, they will be dealt with and they will be dealt with immediately.
There presently are about 19,500 troops on the island. The CARICOM battalion, I believe, is responsible now for the safety of the port, Cap-Haitien, which means there will be U.S. battalion that will be free to be able to come home. There are 194 police monitors who are present and who are beginning to work with the remaining FAD'H public order units to make sure that they provide the correct kind of police view over the island.
In general, we are extremely pleased with the operation up until now, and believe that it's of great value to -- it shows the best of U.S. military forces.
Do you want to add anything?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think you covered it all.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The bottom line from our perspective is that we are on track as well, if not better, than we anticipated we would be in this stage in terms of this mission.
QCan I ask about the police training -- can you explain a little bit about how that would work and timetables for having different increments and recruitment and so on?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Police training is phased off -- Ray Kelly is down there now; he's actually gone into a couple of the police stations, as only he can do, he held a muster, NYPD style. He said, okay, fall in, count heads; you guys are showing up to work tomorrow morning and here are the rules. And he dropped off international police monitors with them and said, okay, I'll be back tomorrow morning; I want these guys fed and looked after; if they aren't you're going to have to deal with me. So Ray Kelly has convince them that there's a good deal in this for them.
We have Haitians that we've trained at Guantanamo. The first group should be coming over in the next couple of days, and they'll become the interim police force as we go through this process. So we'll start that at Cap-Haitien this weekend. We don't need many people up there. The original police company is about 288; you can do this with about 100 police. So it's a combination of --the police that Kelly's guys are going to vet out and this kind of volunteer organization we're bringing out of Haiti.
We're going to replicate that in the sectors of Port-au-Prince incrementally over time. And then, once Aristide names the new police chief, we'll get serious about vetting out the FAD'H and going from there.
Q: The FAD'H are asking Ray Kelly to do it for the reporters as well. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I can add just one thing to what he said, in terms of the folks coming from Guantanamo, they will be basically trainees. They will not have weapons, they will be accompanied by other police there and by the police monitors. They'll continue to receive training, but at this stage they will be particularly doing neighborhood watch, traffic control, other things that are less intrusive until they've had more training.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just add one thing, too. You will note that General Sheehan has called this an interim police force. There's a lot of very understandable confusion about the differentiation between the two missions -- the multinational force, which is the current phase, and the United Nations mission that will be coming in early next year, we expect. It's the United Nations mission that will have the responsibility of both bifurcating what is now a combined police and military force into a smaller professional army and an appropriate civilian police force. What we're doing now is an interim force to provide security.
QWill you describe how President Aristide will return and whether American troops are going to protect him, and if so, for how long?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: How he will return is something we are beginning to discuss with him, and obviously, his judgments here will be the critical ones in terms of the logistics of returning.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The protection is that he has his own security that's worked with the State Department protective service. We will provide what I call general support. If he leaves the city, we will provide helicopter service for him. We will provide checkpoint security throughout the city. But over the longterm, clearly the responsibility is going to rest with the Haitian military and the Haitian police force. But as my colleague said, that is a function that is going to take a couple of months to get completely in place.
Q: So Americans won't be bodyguards?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: I'm wondering if we can talk a little bit about the transformation of Mr. Constant this week from the head of FRAPH to someone who is there giving a speech endorsing Mr. Aristide's return. That's perplexed a lot of folks, and as you know, tomorrow in The Nation, there's going to be an article that there are CIA links to FRAPH and to this individual. I would just like to get the government's assessment to why he turned around so quickly and neatly and react to that upcoming story.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me say a few things. First of all, the United States government had no role whatsoever in organizing, funding, encouraging, operating FRAPH.
Q: Is this just during the Clinton administration we're talking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As far as I know, prior to that. Constant came to us. He obviously saw the shift of powers that I spoke to you -- that I mentioned before. We obviously facilitated his having a press conference.
QWhen did he come to you, sir?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Shortly before the press conference.
Q: In other words, earlier this week?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe that's correct -- two days ago. But this was something he that he did -- we did not initiate, he initiated.
QCould you talk about the extent to which you think FRAPH has been or is being dismantled, and the extent to which he maybe just is going underground?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: May I say a word about -- clearing your throat -- (laughter) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think you should FRAPH is really more than one organization. There's a centralized FRAPH and attached to it is a whole set of paramilitary throughout the country, not centrally controlled; other paramilitary organizations that have to be considered as well. And so your question really asks how are we going to address all of these groups.
And I think that -- I tried to suggest that we are ready, as you saw during last week, going after the FRAPH facilities and seeing whether they have contraband there, seeing -- I think we did seven of them, what was it, last Thursday. And some of them we found a lot of weapons and contraband, and others we didn't. And that's the way we are seizing them.
One of the FRAPH deputies I think has also left country, of the organized FRAPH. And around that are these attaches and paramilitary units which contain a lot of potential for violence and a lot of weapons where you just can't find them and go after them in an organized way. It's a much more difficult task than going after the FAD'H, and that's not so easy.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is one other point I wanted to make in the beginning. In reviewing the progress that we've made and our general satisfaction with where things are, that should not suggest that we don't still consider this to be a difficult mission and one that still carries risks. And that is something that we are aware of every hour of every day.
Q: The revelations about FRAPH and also the reports that Aristide had been in a mental institution, which was later discredited, you get the impression that there is a CIA involvement that does not want Aristide to return and to succeed. How do you dispel this cloud that seems to hang over this whole operation that deals with a sort of undercurrent that certain people in the government are not happy with Aristide and would rather someone else be in power?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, with respect to the revelations, as I said to you, as I said a moment ago, that is not true. The allegation that the government organized or funded or ran FRAPH is not true.
But let me answer your broader question. I think this has been an operation since the President decided that we were heading down this course in which there has been a greater degree of cooperation among the various branches of the government, including the intelligence community, than any that I have ever seen before. So I think once the direction has been clear, everyone has been --has put their shoulder to the wheel and has helped to make this a success.
And with respect to President Aristide, we've judged him based upon our own contacts with him over now two-and-a-half years. And in all of those contacts, he has been a man who is, I think, a man of high principle and knows his own mind, and is about to restored to his elected position, which indicates his strength of purpose.
Q: What still stands in the way of a formal agreement between the United States and President Aristide about the role that U.S. forces will play in his country?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not very much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I understand, it's supposed to be signed this afternoon.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There have been some --
QWhat was the hitch, what were the obstacles?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was just a question of going through -- part of it was just understanding of what you mean. When you have a culture -- it's like the Governors Island Accord -- it took a period of time for people to understand what the words mean. It was just a slow, bureaucratic process. Anytime you hire a lawyer, it's going to take time. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is on background. (Laughter.)
Q: What happens to Jonassaint?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We would expect Jonassaint to leave office -- leave the office he doesn't legitimately hold -- on or before October 15th. And the other ministers -- there is a government. Aristide does have most of the ministers in place. Rene Prosper yesterday offered the amnesty proposal. We would expect by October 15th or soon thereafter those ministers to be back in their offices. And President Aristide will appoint a new prime minister, as he's indicated.
Q: Are you getting cooperation from Cedras and Biamby -- any indication that they may give you some problems at the last moment?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that they have given us cooperation; more importantly, I think they've learned to take guidance and instruction from General Shelton. I think that's worked very well. It's not so much cooperation anymore as they know what's expected of them by the U.S. military there, and I don't think we expect there to be any trouble. As time has gone on, Cedras has certainly lost the control that he had over the FAD'H in the country, and that's got its good parts and its bad parts. He no longer has military control. On the other hand, we don't have another structure to put in his place. But generally speaking, that's --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was just going to say, I think a variant of the same answer really applies to your question about Constant. I don't think his transformation is as puzzling as a lot of people have found it. I don't think it has anything to do with his biography or, for that matter, his character. It's a direct response to a new reality.
Q: Are you going as far as to say that the capacity for organized, centrally-controlled resistance --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that the capacity, I would say, for organized, centrally-controlled resistance is over. The capacity for violence, organized in smaller groups which can create a lot of terror and trouble in the country, is certainly still present.
Q: The fact that Francois just went over to the Dominican Republic and that may be the haven for the others, is there some concern that they could just be regrouping, especially against a backdrop of a Congress which is very anxious to get American troops out of Haiti?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think -- my impression is that President Ballaguer has made it clear and the Dominican government has made it clear that they do not want to see the Dominican Republic used as a staging ground for actions against the legitimate government of Haiti. That's obviously something that we would view as an adverse development. Francois has a house in the Dominican Republic -- not surprising that that's where he would go. But I think we will work closely with the Dominican government to assure that that's where he remains and it is not used as a base of operations.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: By the way, speaking personally as well as on background, I would place a small bet that at least one of the other two, maybe both, will leave. And I'd also place a small bet that they won't end up in the Dominican Republic. For whatever it's worth. I don't think that you would see a gathering of a threesome there.
Q: Which one of the two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I won't go beyond that. I'm just saying that I wouldn't assume from Francois's decision to join his brother in the Dominican Republic, that that's where the other two will go.
Q: Has the trio been offered immunity from prosecution, either by us or by Haiti?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: On the amnesty question, how much concern is there -- American honor and good faith -- what steps are being taken to ensure that those things aren't compromised in the way this plays out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the amnesty question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what the Carter, Powell, Nunnagreement provided was that Cedras, Biamby and Francois would leave upon the enactment of a general amnesty or October 15th, whichever is earlier. So that if there is not an amnesty by October 15th, they're still obligated to leave; we still expect them to leave; and we still believe they will leave. In fact, they will leave, period.
Now, we have an interest in an amnesty law, as does President Aristide. We think that would be useful in terms of the reconciliation process that is going forward. President Aristide has introduced -- his government has introduced an amnesty bill yesterday; it's being referred to a committee. There are differences about the scope of amnesty. This has been an issue really preexisting Governors Island, from Governors Island until now -- what is the scope of an amnesty; what does it cover. We don't think it's appropriate for the United States government to try to write a Haitian amnesty bill. We will try to keep this process moving, try to help bring the parties together to achieve an amnesty, but ultimately, obviously, they've got to define what the terms of that amnesty is.
Q: And as you've brokered the deal don't you have an interest in the way it plays out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, could I maybe address that? I think it's too early certainly to prejudge that there won't be an amnesty. God knows it's too early to predict what kind of an amnesty there will be. But during that -- fairly memorable for us, I suspect for some of you Sunday, when President Carter and General Powell and Senator Nunn were down there, and there was a lot of back-and-forth between them and President Clinton, the one issue on which President Clinton was most adamant was that the proposed document to be signed include a date certain. And the reason was anticipating precisely the kind of wrangle that may or not
now develop. It was President Clinton's view that, okay, we'll give the parties -- never mind who might show what kind of faith -- x amount of time in order to work out an amnesty, but not forever. And that's why he insisted that the October 15th date be added.
And basically what it says, you have until October 15th to work out an amnesty. And if that makes it easier for the --particularly Cedras and Biamby to acquiesce in a peaceful, nonviolent, nonlethal introduction of American forces, fine. But only until October 15th.
Q: Could I follow that? In a larger sense, the amnesty issue, looking down the road, is a question of how far Aristide's new government pursues justice as opposed to mercy. Given that the United States forces are securing order on the ground, why shouldn't Aristide go ahead and attempt to pursue every violator of human rights over the last three years?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I thought your question was going to take just the opposite.
Q: Why, in other words, are you urging a broader amnesty rather than --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are not urging --we're not trying to define the nature of a Haitian political and constitutional argument that is daunting, even if you were an expert at Haitian constitutional law. That is, what authority the President has under Article 147; what authority the parliament has to create an amnesty. We're not saying this is the kind of amnesty or that is the kind of amnesty. What we are urging all of the parties to do, and what seems to be happening is to make a serious effort to adopt an amnesty law that they an agree on.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could I just add a word, having some sense -- as, certainly, my colleague does as well -- about President Aristide's thinking. He is, we're convinced, serious about wanting a broad-based government. And he also is serious about wanting a political environment that is peaceful. And he is looking for a balance between, on the one hand, an amnesty that is so narrow that it leaves out there a critical mass of people who are afraid for their lives and, therefore, constitute a threat to public order; and on the other hand, an amnesty that is so broad that it outrages the mass of Haitian people who have suffered terribly at the hands of this regime.
Now, he has found a kind of rhetorical balance in that respect -- and those of you who listened to his speech in the U.N. the other day probably heard it -- where he says no to vengeance, no to retribution, yes to reconciliation, but no to impunity and yes to justice. Now, how he's going to translate those yeses and nos into an amnesty law -- I don't think he's probably worked out entirely, but he is, I know, in close consultation with his supporters in the Parliament.
There's a lot of experience elsewhere in the hemisphere on this subject -- in Chile, Argentina, Salvador -- and I know that President Aristide has been getting and listening to a lot of advice from other countries who had been through similar traumas and have had to face that problem.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say one last thing on the amnesty. The law that Aristide submitted yesterday through his government to the Parliament does expand considerably the authority that the President would have under an old 1860 Haitian law to confer amnesty. So I think that signifies the fact that he sees this in more expansive terms than the narrowest possible terms one could imagine.
Q: You've got nine days -- they've got nine days to accomplish this. I'm just curious what your best guess is about the odds that that will happen over the next nine days -- a law with this emotion attached to it can actually be done in that amount of time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I thought GATT would be passed before -- (laughter).
I have to honestly -- I don't think anybody can say. I think they are making -- I think there is a serious effort to find a consensus at this point, as of Wednesday.
Q: Are you worried that Congress is considering a time limit when to pull out? Is that worrisome to you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're on record until we're blue in the face making the argument to the Congress that a time limit has real dangers associated with it and could complicate, if not endanger, the mission of our forces there. We continue to consult closely with the Congress.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're very encouraged by the fact that in the Senate there is a compromise sense of the Congress resolution which is does contain any date certain. It's not something -- there are a lot of other things in the Congress resolution that we disagree with, but I think it does reflect a bipartisan view in the Senate at this stage that it is inadvisable, notwithstanding our intention of drawing our force down over the next several months, that it is inadvisable to put a calendar on General Shelton's head.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's significant that -- I believe that all the senators who went -- last weekend -- down, came back opposed to a date certain. It's also worth keeping in mind that one of the reasons we made the progress we had and are now absolutely certain that we're going to succeed in restoring President Aristide is because General Cedras and General Biamby were faced with a date certain. We don't want to put General Shelton in that position.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do you want to say anything more about this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that the point that my colleagues made are accurate, but the point that I would make to people and that I have made to the people who have asked me the question is that from the squad leaders' perspective, the kid that's on the ground, we own the tactical advantage for two reasons: One, when the policemen up at Cap-Haitien last weekend decided to threaten the Marines and the Haitians died in the firefight, that has a significant psychological advantage, especially on Cedras and the rest of the leadership. They didn't expect that to happen.
And number two, when you're talking about these special forces teams that have gone out to the countryside, you're talking about 12 kids, very, very talented people, but they fly in, drive into a particular town, and their simple presence is a psychological advantage because the FAD'H clearly knows that's either the front end of a big piece or the beginning of reconciliation and progress.
In the case of, for example, -- when we went in there the other day, it was 12 people that went in there. And they flew in by helicopter, landed in the town, said, okay, we're here. Chief of Police, fall in. Get your cops over here; get your army guys over here; let's go look at the jail. That's where they found the 40 people stuffed in one cell. And a Sergeant First-Class told the chief -- the police guy there -- I'll be back this afternoon; I want the place cleaned up; I want these people looked after; I want them taken care of -- get it done. And the guy said, yes, sir.
He then mustered the attorney general equivalent and called the Red Cross and said, get over here and get involved in this thing; I'll be back. He then went and called back and said, I want this guy reassigned. And they packed him up and shipped him back to Port-au-Prince.
The reason they had that advantage is clearly because the Haitians knew that if they didn't do it, it was going to be bad news for them. And so, you have that advantage psychologically in tactical mobility. But if you have a date out there that says it's 30 days, it's 60 days, it's 90 days -- this is a society that lives in intimidation. Five, 10, 15 of these jerks are going to drift off into the countryside with their weapons and in 60 or 90 days later they're back because they're going to say, well, the Americans are going to be gone. If they don't know that you're not going to leave in 60 or 90 days, you are going through what we call behavior modification. So they are going to behave because they don't know what's transpiring. So I think that if they knew that we are going to be gone in two months or something like that, that young Sergeant FirstClass would not be going into a town with the psychological advantage that he owns right now.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say one last thing on this point. There will be an international presence in Haiti under U.N. Security Council 940 until February of 1996. We want that to be very much a seamless process. We will hand over this operation to a U.N. mission; at that point where we can represent the Security Council; the Security Council accepts the proposition there is a secure environment.
The dates that are out there are dates for the front-end of this thing, not for the whole thing. And, again, from a Haitian perspective there will be an international presence. It will be coming down on the military side and going up on the international, economic and other kind of side substantially next year. But, there will be an international presence through most of next year. And I think it's important that they not -- that we not emphasize a particular point in which that transition takes place.
Q: Does the U.S. have any track record in professionalizing these forces in foreign countries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. In fact, there is a tap which is a Justice Department agency working with the State Department that has done this in Panama and Salvador and other places. In fact, there is more than a record than I was aware of.
Q: Is the aim to disarm all the paramilitary forces there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think my colleague explained the plan here in terms of the paramilitary's --there has been an order that has gone out from the FAD'H, as I understand it, for the paramilitaries to reclaim the weapons they were issued. Therefore, the permits -- the licenses by which those weapons were in people's hands -- no longer pertain to the extent therefore that they are in caches that we can identify or they are in visible situations where we have the capacity to obtain them, we will do so. We are not engaged in person-to-person, house-to-house searches for weapons, nor will we be.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. That's essentially correct. Most of the information -- it's all based on intelligence. There is a large segment of the population that continually wants to lead the rest of their lives in peace. And so what's happening is we are getting a lot of what we call basic (inaudible). And so after four or five people, say, there is a building down the street that has xnumber of weapons -- and for example, we got a mortar the other day because somebody told us where
it was. So, based on intelligence from four of five different sources, we will go after a particular house. But as my colleague says, we are not going to go through the Citi Soleil or Carrefour or one of those kinds of places looking for weapons.
QI believe, sir, that you said that you were feeding 1.3 million people. There were stories today showing -- Haitians were eating the troops garbage. Is there any plans to improve upon that situation, or will it stay virtually the same?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- let me make sure I was accurate about the numbers I used. I think we're feeding today a million people. When schools open next week, we will be feeding 1.3 million.
Let's step back a second. Haiti is a desperately poor country. It is the poorest country in the hemisphere. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. It was before Aristide was dislodged. After three years of sanctions, the situation, obviously, is even worse. So I think we've got to look at it in the proper context. Our humanitarian operation now will be able to ramp up. We are not operating -- the humanitarian operation before was operating, in some ways at the tolerance of the military leadership. If they wanted to jerk us around and not let an oil shipment into -- non-NGOs, we lost a week or two weeks. Those roadblocks are now away. We are able to increase the humanitarian operation significantly. More importantly, we need to get beyond the relief operation to the beginning of an economic recovery and reconstruction program which we hope the international -- we expect the international to begin soon after Aristide comes back.
Q: There may not be -- (inaudible) -- date certain. But there is a date certain. As the moral authority of these forces are going to -- (inaudible) -- over time, and we've seen Lebanon, Somalia, wherever - - that the danger is Mission Creep, as we move from maintaining order, which we're very good at, to nation-building, which we are abysmal at, is there a sense that there is a time that we've just got to get these troops out of there and get somebody else on the ground to pick up those duties?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me be really clear about this. The mission of our troops in Haiti is not nation-building. I want to distinguish very clearly between what American and other forces are doing in Haiti and what the international community with Haiti hopefully will do with our involvement over the years on the economic side. Our mission is to ensure the transfer of power, to help to establish a secure environment in which that government can work, and then to professionalize the police and military and then to get out. That is not contingent upon an increase in the standard of living of Haitians. It is not contingent upon running water in every house. It is not contingent upon Jeffersonian democracy taking hold in Haiti.
However, parallel to what we are doing, there will be a significant infusion of international economic assistance -- $500 million in year one, which is probably about the capacity of the country to absorb, which hopefully will have the effect of infusing that country with more economic vitality.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you want to energize your briefers, just use the phrases Mission Creep and nation-building in the same question. (Laughter.) You'll really see us kind of get up off of our chairs.
But, the way we look at it -- we are trying to give the Haitian people a chance to go back to the business of nation-building themselves. There has been an awful lot of commentary, and God knows we've discussed it a lot among ourselves, over the parallel effort of democracy-building and how much democracy was there, can there be, and so forth and so on. And we feel that what happened back in December 1990, when 90 percent of Haitian people went to the polls and nearly 70 percent of them voted for Aristide, that was democracy in a very fundamental way. And it was an important part of nationbuilding. And it was interrupted. It was taken away from them in September 1991. And our mission is very simple. It's to give them back what they lost in September 1991, and we think that is going to happen nine days from now.
Q-- the role of United States is one thing. The role of the United States military is quite different. That is, there has to come into time very soon at hand where the handoff is from the military having a major role to the State Department, whoever, having the major role, and the military taking a subsidiary position --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I understand what's going to happen --our staunch resistance to a legislatively imposed date certain does not mean that we have anything less than a high degree of confidence that we are going to be able to hand-off to the United Nations mission, which is going to total 6,000 people. Remember, we've got nearly 20,000 there now -- total 6,000 people, of whom no more than half, probably a little less than half, will be Americans. And of those 3,000 quite a few of them will not be military. So we have that hand-off very much in mind and it's in quite foreseeable future.
QGoing back to the FRAPH, you said that the U.S. is not funding it -- or never did fund it. But isn't it fair to say that there were assets in the FRAPH on the U.S. payroll?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's the practice of this government --
Q: That's why we have background briefings --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know, but background or not background, not to comment on who was or wasn't assets of intelligence community.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:30 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269421