PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Secretary of State Colin Powell met with the Combined Joint Task Force-Haiti commander and received a briefing on military operations in Haiti during a short visit here April 5.
The briefing, attended by the leaders of the forces making up the Multinational Interim Force - Haiti, allowed Brig. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman to update the Secretary on military operations in Haiti.
“The purpose of the briefing was to give him the lay of the land,” Coleman explained. “We showed him what the force lay down was when we first got here, what it is now and what the way ahead looks like.”
Providing the Secretary Powell this update ensures that he can go back to Washington knowing where forces here stand on completing their mission and the MIF’s ability to turn over to the United Nations peacekeeping forces.
“It allows him to assess if we will be able to accomplish our mission in the allotted time,” Coleman continued.
“He expressed many times how pleased he was with our efforts.”
Not only was the CJTF-Haiti commander able to show him projected plans for the task force, he was able to discuss a key to stability in the country.
“We were able to show him that until the Haitian National Police are able to stand on their own, there would not be peace in Haiti,” he stated. “He agreed with this assessment.”
Powell also recognized the efforts of the United States’ partners in the Multinational Interim Force.
“I want to take this occasion to thank our partners in the multinational forces; France, Canada and Chile,” the Secretary said. “I thank them for their swift and humane response to the needs of the Haitian people.”
According to Coleman, a visit such as this is a major morale booster for the all the forces on the ground as well as to embassy personnel.
“It showed that we have the appreciation of the American people on what we are doing down here,” he explained. “They appreciate both the difficulty and scope of our task. The Secretary of State being former military, he understands the difficulties we face.”
Following the military briefing, Powell met with the prime minister and later in the day met with the interim president of Haiti.
“It was only six weeks ago that Haiti was on the verge of total security collapse,” Powell stated. “On the last week in February, I believe we prevented a bloodbath from happening.”
“I came to Port-au-Prince to demonstrate America’s support for Haiti,” Powell explained as he addressed the presence of U.S. forces in Haiti at a press conference shortly after his arrival. “Our purpose is to help the people and leadership of Haiti make a new beginning and to build a future of hope for the Haitian people.
“We will be hard at work in the weeks ahead with the United Nations to put in place a peacekeeping force that will eventually replace the multi-national forces.
Powell continued by expressing his admiration for the prime minister and the interim president for their roles in the new government.
“President Alexandre played a historic role in assuming constitutional responsibility as the interim president of Haiti,” he explained.
“I want to express my admiration and thanks to the prime minister for his willingness to step forward and serve his people at this time of crisis and time of challenge. I am impressed by the commitment he has brought to his tasks.”
During his meeting with the prime minister, Powell addressed many critical issues for Haiti’s success, to include ending corruption, creating jobs, CARICOM, elections and disarmament.
“We had a thorough and comprehensive discussion,” Powell explained. We talked about the ending of corruption and putting in place someone or committee that will go after those who are guilty of corruption and make sure it does not occur again in the future government.
“We talked about what has to be done to get Haiti’s economy started again and create jobs,” he continued. “And we also talked about the important jobs needed to put the country back on a constitutional footing.
“I also said to the prime minister in the course of our discussions that I would be working hard to re-integrate Haiti into the CARICOM community in the months ahead.
“I also want to endorse again what the president said,” he explained as he addressed elections and service in the government. “That service in the Haitian government, including in its security forces and participation in the political process, should be open to all Haitians who reject violence and are committed to democracy.”
Moving on to disarmament, Powell noted the importance of getting guns off the streets, out of villages and out of the hands of thugs and criminals and he asked for the laying down of arms.
“Without disarmament, Haiti’s democracy will remain at risk. We call on all armed groups to lay down their weapons and allow the duly constituted authorities to impose the rule of law.”
To assist in the interim government’s efforts, Powell announced the release of $9 million to the Organization of American States’ special mission with the purpose of strengthening democracy in Haiti, as well as other funds to help the economy.
“We plan to spend $55 million in economic and humanitarian assistance in Haiti during this fiscal year,” he explained. “And we will be working with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to get Haiti the resources it needs so badly.”
The Secretary of State pledged the United States’ continued support in Haiti’s efforts to reestablish democracy and stability.
“The United States will do everything we can in the months ahead to help the interim government,” Powell stated. “I assured the prime minister that all the issues mentioned to you today, that the United States will be providing him full support.”
Powell ended his statements with a note of hope for the Haitian community.
“Today, the Haitian people have a chance for a new beginning,” he announced. “On behalf of President Bush and the American people, I urge the proud people of Haiti to seize this new chance to put your country firmly on the path of democracy and prosperity.