Bill Clinton photo

Background Briefing by Senior U.S. Officials

March 27, 1995

The Briefing Room

3:26 P.M. EST

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: In typical Pentagon fashion, I've built some charts here, maybe help describe where were are in a little bit more detail. And then my colleague has got some remarks, and then we'll take your questions.

If there's one chart that sort of maybe sort of depicts this all in one fell swoop, it's probably this one. And let me just talk to you about it briefly. This is 20 September back here when we intervened in the country. And as you recall, that number got as high as 21,000 for a very brief time under the command of 18th Airborne Corps, Lt. General Hugh Shelton.

I've listed at 20 September, and the numbers here, 10th Mountain Division -- that's really a misnomer. In addition to the 10th Mountain Division, there was an aviation task force, a logistics task force, a medical task force, a signal task force, et cetera. But about 15-3 army special operating forces -- 1,400; and the special SPMAGTF, the Marine battalion plus, initially offshore at Cap-Haitien eventually came ashore in that part of the country.

We quickly came down from that on the 25th of October. General Shelton handed off to Major General Dave Mead, the 10th Mountain Division, who assumed responsibility for everything in- country. And then in January on the 14th, General Mead handed off to General Fisher, who has continued the effort since that period.

Now the other part of this story, of course, is the bottom part, initially, almost entirely a U.S. effort. And over time, as we'll show you on some succeeding charts, coalition forces -- and I'll list those for you -- subsequently entered into this effort and have continued to expand over time. And when we reached the 31st, the magic number is 6,000, 2,500 of which are U.S., and 3,500 of which are other forces. And, again, we'll list those on a succeeding chart.

Now, if you look at the left side of this chart first, the multinational force, which is what we went in as, went in with this mission -- for those of you in the back, depending on how old you are -- establish a safe and secure environment, restore legitimate government, protect Haitian leaders, and assist in the provision of humanitarian relief. I suspect this is tough to see from over on this side.

The concept was to establish a presence throughout the country to focus on security, stability and civil military operations; to professionalize the army of Haiti; and, initially, really two things -- professionalize the army and establish an interim police force. Those two really came together very quickly over the last five months.

And the army, as most of you know, the army in Haiti as it existed before the 19th of September no longer exists. Many of those army members, through a process of vetting to determine whether or not they were human rights abusers, have become a part of the interim police force. And they are functioning throughout the country of Haiti. And then the transition to United Nations Operations.

Now, if you look at a snapshot on the 30th of January, this was now -- was the 25th Infantry Division, numbers as shown, and our Special Operating Forces. Principally, our Special Forces A- Teams -- about 800-plus, scattered throughout the country, and then, as many of you know and have done enormous good work in terms of interface with both humanitarian agencies, our governmental agencies, and the Haitian institutions -- the mayors, the local towns -- focusing the effort in providing security and stability throughout the country.

And then as of that date, these were the coalition forces already in-country. As you can see, a large contingent from Bangladesh. This is a multination contingent out of the Caribbean and the others as shown there, for a total of 1,600. And this item down here, international police monitors, are basically policemen from all over the world who came together to support this effort principally to provide sort of a backup to the interim police force, not just in Port-au-Prince, but throughout the country, to sort of supervise, make sure they take a look at things like human rights, making sure that interim police were functioning within reasonable bounds in terms of the way they function, and also to provide sort of moral support and physical support to the interim police force throughout the country.

If you fast forward to the 31st of March to the UNMIH, to the United Nations Mission in Haiti, this will be their mission: sustain a stable and secure environment; protect international people in key installations; create and train a Haitian police force -- that my colleague talked about briefly; and assist the legitimate constitutional authority, assist the government of Haiti. Really, the focus shifting from first General Shelton, then General Mead, then General Fisher, being sort of in charge of everything, to a U.N. mission focusing on supporting the government of Haiti and all of the institutions that it must bring up and get functioning adequately through time.

The concept is to maintain the sort of focus on stability; to support a free elections process scheduled for early June, already underway; and support the transition to the new government as provided by that election and the presidential election late this year; and then, finally that mandate for the U.N. ends in February of next year and the forces within this United Nations mission then redeploying.

You can see conventional forces -- I've sort of lumped this together -- conventional forces just under 2,000 and the special forces still 550, still operating out in the countryside. I'll show a slide that sort of graphically depicts that. And then these coalition forces that are providing companies and battalions -- 100 people, up to 800 people in some cases -- listed here. And then the international police monitors now referred to as the civilian police or civpol under the supervision of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, and a total of 900, actually more than we had there before. Same mission -- sort of backup for the interim police force and, as we began to graduate people from the police academy for the new police force, providing both supervision, moral support and physical support.

And, finally, just to give you a concept of what this United Nations Mission in Haiti looks like in the country, I would highlight a couple of things. The little triangles here are where we will have our Special Forces A-Teams throughout the country. So we're still maintaining that presence, and they are linked in both with Port-au-Prince and with the other part of this that's expanding which is these contingents from the other nations which are in fact based throughout the country. And you can see the names listed there. The stars are sort of battalion hubs, and the little, red circles are company locations.

But, again, the effort under General Kinzer is to push this force out into the countryside so that they provide more of this presence along with our Special Forces A-Teams as we go forward through the next year.

Let me touch briefly on command and control relationships. Major General Joe Kinzer, two-star general, is both the commander of all U.N. forces, as well the commander of all U.N. forces as well as the commander of all U.S. forces in Haiti. Under the U.S. side of that, his chain of command runs through General Jack Sheehan in the Atlantic Command. On the U.N. side, his chain runs through Mr. Brahimi, the Secretary General's Special Representative in Haiti, who is there full-time. And so all the U.S. forces will be under the direct command of a U.S. officer for the full duration of this mission.

I think with that as some background, I would turn it over for some comments from my colleague and then be happy to take your questions.

Q: Could I just ask first, please -- there were a lot of problems in the beginning when the U.S. troops first went in with the rules of engagement. Is there any difference with the rules of engagement here? Do they vary from country to country?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Let me touch on that. I guess I would agree to you that at 9:00 a.m. in the morning on the 19th there was a question on rules of engagement because we had built them for an invasion. And in fact, we intervened without an invasion. So there was a tweaking of the rules of engagement to ensure that they matched the situation that we had on the ground.

So if you accept the premise that from about the 21st of September on, the rules of engagement were correct for the situation that our forces found themselves, I would say to you that the ROE for the U.N. mission is -- and we've spent a lot of time; in fact, General Shali has spent a great deal of time, as well as Secretary Perry on this particular issue -- they both believe, and we believe, that the ROE are absolutely adequate to do what is required to both maintain the security of the force and accomplish the mission in Haiti. I didn't list them, but I would say to you that if you look at that set of rules of engagement we have for UNMIH, they will allow the commander to do what he needs to do in the event he encounters problems.

Q: How many U.S. forces are there right now, today?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: About 6,000, just over 6,000.

Q: The two charts don't really agree, the first one and the second one. The first one showed more than -- well over 6,000 on March 31st, then kind of tapering off.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: That's correct. If you'll put that chart back up here, maybe I can -- I'm confusing myself.

Q: The second chart made it look like as of the 31st it went down to 6,000 total.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: No, that's -- you are correct, that there are about -- well, let's look at here on the chart so we don't have to conjecture. Okay, remember it's 2,500 U.S. when we get to UNMIH. The net difference is between 2,500 and about this total here. So we're at -- just over 5,000 soldiers. The rest will come down in the next two weeks.

Q: You mean right now there are 5,000 U.S. --

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: That's right. And they are scheduled to redeploy. And the reason we've held is during this transition we wanted to make sure we had adequate force there so that it was sort of seamless in terms of --

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Could I just add one thing here. One of the ideas here of a seamless transition in a sense is that there will be essentially -- the force the day right before the transition to UNMIH will look very much like the force right after UNMIH. So there will be roughly 6,000 right before, roughly 6,000 right after.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Being from the State Department, I needless to say, don't have slides. But let me just run through a few facts. There are going to be two elections this year in Haiti. Legislative and local elections on June 4th, and presidential elections on -- in November. Organizing the June elections is going to be a substantial undertaking -- 3,000 polling places, more than 1,000 candidates for different local and national offices. The process has begun. The registration of voters began on Sunday in a number of localities through the country. And that will continue, and registration at all localities will begin by next week. Registration of candidates is to begin on the 30th of this month, the day before the President goes. So Haiti is going into an electoral period.

Let me just briefly go over the economic situation. Haiti has been promised $1.2 billion in international assistance roughly over 18 months, of which the United States will contribute about 25 percent. This is the best example of, from the American standpoint, of international burden-sharing in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

Forty -- as my colleague said, economic activity is resuming, albeit slowly in Haiti. About 40 firms have reopened their doors with employment perhaps of 10,000 to 12,000. The employment in the formal private sector in Haiti was about 50,000 in the late '80s. And that's a target which we would hope to reach over the next year or two as we encourage further investment, both from within Haiti and foreign investment.

The U.S. program is $200 million in aid this year, this fiscal year, of which slightly less than a quarter is going for basic humanitarian assistance -- sorry -- slightly more than a quarter for basic humanitarian assistance, slightly less than a quarter for assistance to governance, that includes money to support the elections which are going to be held, money to support the creation of a new police force, and assistance to other administrative and governmental reform. And a little less than half is basic economic recovery -- balance of payments assistance, the payoff -- a participation, international program to pay off Haiti's arrears to the international financial institutions, which in turn has allowed them to come up with something like half of that $1.2 billion that's been -- that's been committed.

Under the leadership of the Department of Commerce, the United States has engaged in a major effort to promote trade and investment in Haiti. Deputy Secretary of State Talbott led a trade and -- a presidential trade and investment mission to Haiti several weeks ago, which had about 28 American corporations along with senior officials and congressional delegations.

This was the kickoff of a campaign which will include five other sectoral missions in which the United States government will bring down American investors and American corporations interested in doing business in Haiti in sectors including the agribusiness, the assembly sector, telecommunications sector, the energy sector and the arts and crafts sector.

So that's just some basic background on our efforts in the economic and electoral area.

Q: Sir, did I understand you to say that we would be using American troops to conduct local elections down there?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: No, what I said was the -- I'm not sure -- I didn't address the issue of troops in the elections.

Q: You said we were going have an election -- you said we had so many troops there.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: I didn't mention any troops. Sorry. I mean, the role of the U.N. Mission will be to create a secure environment in which elections take place. But I didn't address the question.

Q: Will you be using U.S. troops to supervise and advise and control elections -- local elections down there?


Q: What are you going to do --

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Can I -- move this around a little bit.

Q: What kinds of themes will the President be sounding in his speeches that he makes there in the different settings?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: There will be two-and-a-half speeches. One will be to the troops in which I think it's fair to expect that he will express deep gratitude to the United States for the job that they have done, which has really been truly an extraordinary job. From the very beginning when the 11th hour they changed their mission on the way from one fundamental mission to another to the skill with which they have related and dealt with the Haitian people through this period to the point where they are a very welcome presence in the country, not something that was anticipated, given Haitian history, they have performed very well, magnificently so.

Theme number one, I think, clearly is to thank the troops. Number two, I think in his talk to the Haitian people, the President will acknowledge the extraordinary courage and determination that they have demonstrated through a brutal period. They fought very hard for restoration of their democracy, not just President Aristide, but the Haitian people have endured an enormous amount. And I think the President will pay tribute to that. He will also talk about the hard work that lies ahead in making democracy take root, where it does not have a deep and long tradition in doing the hard work of building an economy that has been really plundered by its leaders over many, many generations.

And so I think he will express to the Haitians the hope that they will stay the course and continue to build the progress that they are making. He'll talk, obviously, about the importance of the elections and the need to continue the process of democratization that was truncated at the time of the coup and restored in September.

There will be brief remarks by the President at the transition ceremony, and I'm sure at that point he'll talk about the fact that we remain committed to this operation through its UNMIH phase.

Q: One of the criticisms of the operation so far has been that our forces did not disarm the paramilitary -- and that they're just lying low, waiting for us to leave as of February '96, and then it all starts again. Why did we not go after the paramilitary to disarm, and how do you assess the danger that poses?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Let me answer it, and then I'll ask General Bates perhaps to fill in behind me. From the very beginning, our mission there was to create a secure environment so that the government could be restored, but it was not to be the front-line police operation in Haiti. That is something that we felt from the very beginning had to be a Haitian function.

We have done a lot of disarmament. Thirty thousand weapons have been retrieved from Haitians over this period. There has been -- when we've known of weapons caches, we've gone after them. There have been roadblocks and seizures on a random basis. I think we've absorbed a lot of the weaponry that's in the country, but there was a decision from the very beginning that we were not going to go house to house looking for weapons in Haiti; that was not part of our function.

With respect to opposition, I think with the conversion with the reconstitution of the security forces in Haiti, from the old FAHD, which was quite a repressive institution, to a new much more trained Haitian police force, that undercuts to no small degree the institutional base for a lot of these paramilitary groups that really adhered to the army. And while I am sure there are opponents of the current government that remain in Haiti, we have not seen, so far, organized opposition.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: I think the only thing I could add to that is that from the start, and continuing under UNMIH, we are with every intelligence apparatus we have at our disposal, focusing on this issue of are there additional weapons caches, and are there organizations that are maneuvering to have an effect on the society.

So we stay concerned about it, but I'd just reinforce what my colleague said in terms of the number of caches we've picked up. And the fact that there at this state not any reasonable intelligence would suggest that there are organizations out there with large amounts of weapons sort of waiting in the wings to have an effect.

Q: Who is part of the President's delegation? Did you extend invitations to Carter, Powell and Nunn?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: I don't believe that President Carter or Senator Nunn or General Powell are coming with us, but there is a congressional group, congressional delegation. There will be other Americans traveling -- Bill Gray, for example, I know is going with us. It's not a large delegation. Basically, the President's going to be transiting from Florida, so he'll already be down there with you all. And we'll take one plane down from here.

Q: Were those three invited?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: At present, I don't know the answer to that. The President has talked to them over this period about Haiti, and they were just there quite recently. President Carter -- all three of them have reported back to the President on their observations from their recent trip.

Q: Can you be a little clearer in terms of where there is a change in the rules of engagement between the coalition of UNMIH? I ask that question because, as you know, there's been some criticism the last couple of days that the coalition forces aren't intervening to stop the wave of crime that's going on in Port-Au- Prince.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Well, again, I'll ask my colleague to answer that. But we have never seen the function of either the multinational force or the United Nations mission as the Haitian police -- that is, as the first line of police, in terms of crime and in the streets, so to speak. And what we've seen in the last few weeks, from our observation, from the reporting of our embassy down there and others, appears to simply be economic kind of petty crimes and thievery, and then violence arising from that, and not of a political nature.

Q: Wait a minute. But isn't that a problem, though? I mean, that's what led before. I mean, it's not political in nature, but if enough people get enough desperate, it could become political in nature and could topple Aristide again.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Let me just say I've gone down twice to Haiti to participate and share the U.S. delegation in meetings with President Aristide and with Mr. Brahimi and General Kinzer representing the U.N. to talk about the transition. And we've talked on both of these occasions in mid-March and in mid-February about the rules of engagement, and more broadly, the function not only of the military, but of the civilian police component of the U.N. mission.

And the U.N. has made clear that it intends to carry forward all of the activities that are currently being undertaken by U.S. military forces, by MNF military forces and by the civilian police, and that this will include, as necessary, the use of force, not just in protecting the troops and in protecting the U.N. personnel, but in maintaining a secure and stable environment and assisting the government of Haiti in that respect. And the police and military will be permitted to use force to protect their mission, as well as themselves. And this would include intervening when necessary; when large-scale criminality or disorder threatened the stability of the environment, or to protect individuals, including Haitians, who are themselves being threatened as a result of criminality.

Q: Very simply, will this U.N. force be making criminal arrests? Will they serve as a police force? There are estimates that it may take 12 to 18 months for the Haitian police force to be adequately trained and manned to take over that responsibility.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: The U.N. force will continue to detain individuals as the MNF has, and turn them over in due course to the Haitian authorities. Neither the MNF, nor UNMIH make formal arrests. They do detain people and then turn them over the Haitian authorities who keep them in custody. And that will continue.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: And I would also ad, this again, is a -- you've got to see this as an evolving situation. We will -- there is the interim police that's on the street now. They will eventually be replaced, 350 or so a month, by the new Haitian police that are going through a very rigorous training program. At the same time, we are trying to deal with a justice system in Haiti that has been devastated. And we have people down there now who are working with justices of the peace -- training them. We've had some efforts now with about 200 or 500 justices of the peace. I mean, we are -- this is a construction project as we move along. Both, obviously, the security -- Haitian security forces and the Haitian judicial system will steadily improve.

Q: Do you have a contingency force and a stay-behind, or is it going to be offshore? What are the preparations for contingency operations?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: There is no -- correct me if I'm wrong -- there's no dedicated quick reaction force or anything of that nature.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Let me just say one more thing about that, and that is, that in the UNMIH force structure itself, is in fact, a quick reaction force. And it's made up of two light infantry companies, capable of moving by helicopter, and two light calvary troops, which are armored Humvee-mounted, principally for operations in Port-au-Prince, but also that can be moved by CH-47 anywhere in the country. That force is being exercised and will be exercised by General Kinzer, specifically, to ensure it's ready to go. So in Haiti, there is, in fact, a QRF. But my colleague is exactly correct, as far as offshore or something, a dedicated QRF -- there is none because we don't see a need for one.

Q: Those units are U.S. units?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: That's right. The four units in the QRF are U.S.

Q: What is the status of the former leaders in Haiti and what role, if any, do you expect them to play in the election process?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Haven't heard much from them.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END3:53 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior U.S. Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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