Stability Returns to Haiti, Force Plans for Successors

By Jim Garamone

The Multinational Interim Force in Haiti has begun planning for a follow-on force June 1 no matter what form it takes, officials in Haiti said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the follow-on force would have about 6,700 military personnel and would be in place to relieve the U.S. led interim force on time.

Officials said they have begun planning for the transfer of authority. Commanders have met with the U.N. assessment team and with members of the military from interested donor countries.

About 3,800 service members from four countries are in the Multinational Interim Force. The United States has about 2,000 service members in Haiti, France has more than 900, Canada has more than 500 and Chile has more than 300.

The U.S. contingent has expanded into Les Cayes in the south and Hinche in the central plateau. The French continue to expand the security zone in the northern part of the country.

The force is working with nongovernmental and governmental agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to the population, said Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for the force. The force recently distributed $800,000 worth of excess Defense Department medical supplies to the hospitals and clinics in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.

"As security has gotten better, we’ve been able to switch to more humanitarian work," Lapan said. The force has helped deliver food, dig wells and provide medical care.

The U.S. Coast Guard still is patrolling around Haiti. Cutters intercepted a number of boats recently and repatriated a number of migrants today, Lapan said.

The force has started advertising a cash-for-weapons program in Haiti. The force "will pay for information leading to weapons caches," Lapan said. The force will pay only after illegal weapons are seized and evaluated. "We’re not going to pay for an old, rusty, nonusable weapon," Lapan said.