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10,000 troops to be in Haiti, offshore by Monday

Posted January 15, 2010

— Up to 10,000 U.S. troops will be in Haiti or off its shores by Monday to distribute aid and prevent potential rioting among desperate earthquake survivors, it was disclosed Friday, as President Obama promised long-term reconstruction help.

More than 100 soldiers with 82nd Airborne Division were among the first to arrive in Port-au-Prince when they landed late Thursday. A second contingent of about 800 Fort Bragg paratroopers left for Haiti Friday afternoon aboard about two dozen military transports, and the 2,200-strong 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, also set sail to assist with earthquake relief efforts.

Military officials have said that the 82nd Airborne's primary mission will be to distribute supplies donated by charities and foreign governments. They could also help with security at the airport.

"Right now, what we're sending out is vehicles, soldiers and enough material to sustain them when they get down there," said Gerald Jensen, chief of unit movements at Fort Bragg. "There's not much down there to work with, so they need to be able to take everything they need down there with them."

WRAL News reporter Bryan Mims, who is with the Fort Bragg troops, said much of Friday was spent sitting on the airport tarmac awaiting orders. Medics provided aid to some injured Haitians, he said, but most troops eagerly waited to assist in any way they could.

The Camp Lejeune Marines will bring with them trucks, earth-moving equipment and water-purification systems.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other military ships also had arrived in the Port-au-Prince harbor by Friday. Helicopters were ferrying water and other relief supplies off the ship to the airport.

The one-runway airport didn't sustain much damage in the quake, but it strained to keep up with a backlog of relief and military flights, Mims said. Foreigner frantic to leave the ravaged country created a small disturbance overnight, and some 82nd Airborne troops had to step in to restore order, he said.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that the total American presence in and around the beleaguered country could rise beyond 10,000 as U.S. military officers determine how much assistance may be needed in the days ahead.

His assessment came as the State Department updated the toll of U.S. dead from Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude quake to six and cautioned that the casualty count is likely to rise still further.

Obama on Friday promised an expansive U.S. effort to help Haiti survive its disaster, not just in the frantic push to save lives now but also as part of a longer-term, costly effort to help rebuild the country. Under pressure to show a coordinated and forceful response to the humanitarian crisis, Obama offered his third national update in as many days from the White House, saying Washington has a special responsibility to help an imperiled neighbor.

Obama, who had been unable to contact President Rene Preval several times this week, talked for 30 minutes with the Haitian leader. He told Preval the world has been devastated by the loss and suffering and pledged full U.S. support for both the immediate recovery effort and the long-term reconstruction.

For his part, Preval said the needs in his country are great but that aid is now making its way to the people. Preval asked Obama to thank the American people "from the bottom of my heart."

Said Obama: "The scale of the devastation is extraordinary, as I think all of us are seeing on television, and the losses are heartbreaking."

Speaking from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, he announced he would meet on Saturday at the White House with the two presidents who preceded him in the Oval Office, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. They've been enlisted to get the American people more broadly involved in the recovery effort. Bush and Clinton will lead that drive going forward.

In a joint news conference at the Pentagon with Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the primary goal is to distribute aid as quickly as possible "so that people don't, in their desperation, turn to violence." He suggested that the U.S. is aware of perceptions it could have too-high a profile in the ravaged country.

"I think that if we, particularly given the role that we will have in delivering food and water and medical help to people, my guess is the reaction will be one of relief at seeing Americans providing this kind of help," Gates told reporters.

The secretary also said "there will be a lot of other people there as well," noting Brazil also has a significant presence. He said it was vital to get food and water into the country and called the security situation "pretty good," except for some isolated cases of scavenging for food and water.

The secretary said military planners have been reluctant to drop food and water packages from the air because it could lead to lead to rioting. But bringing in supplies by sea and air have proved difficult because of Haiti's badly damaged sea port and congested airport.

Crowley, the State Department spokesman, acknowledged the limitations of the initial U.S. effort to get water, food and other emergency requirements into Haiti. He said, for example, that the main port at Port-au-Prince, the capital, was so badly damaged in the quake that it is not usable. He likened the stream of aid thus far as flowing through a "garden hose" that must be widened to a "river."

As of Friday morning, 846 of the approximately 45,000 Americans in Haiti had been evacuated from the country, Crowley said. Another 160 were at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince awaiting evacuation, he added.

Gates said the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti has primary responsibility for security in the capital.

Mullen said the hospital ship USNS Comfort, with hundreds of medical professionals and medical support, should be off the Haitian coast by the end of next week.

"While these assets tend to the immediate material and medical needs of the people of Haiti, these ships, aircraft and troops also deliver hope, although it seems that supplies and security cannot come quickly enough," Mullen said.

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  • nerdlywehunt Jan 15, 2010

    To the neocons that think the US is doing such a bad job responding please get off you duff and volunteer to DO SOMETHING! instead of sitting around and complaining. Classic response from our low to no achieving friends.

  • cbfx3 Jan 15, 2010

    terrible tragedy.. We dont know how blessed we are here. I just hope all the good hearted people that donate money dont have their donations wasted or squandered by some scammers or greedy govt officials. By the way if all of the 850,000 Haitian Americans would donate 100 bucks each there's 85 million right there.

  • Big Mike Jan 15, 2010

    It goes without saying that we live on a fragile rock in the universe. We truly don't understand the power of the earth within, and the havoc we are so unprepared for. Now and later!

    Put your attitudes to the side, forget politics and all that junk, and ask your self....."What would I do if I were a Hattian right now?

    Just never take life for granted....you could be gone in a minute if it were here....love your family and friends. Do something good for those less fortunate and thank God for the life you had today. We all could be non existant tomorrow!

    Peace Out!

    Mike

  • rescuefan Jan 15, 2010

    I find it disgusting that there are some people who are turning this into another reason to bash Obama. There are 45,000-50,000 people dead in Haiti and some of you can't get your heads out of your back sides enough to see that we are as on top of this as we can be as quickly as we could be. Instead, you turn it into your political pulpit where you spew even more hate.

  • Worland Jan 15, 2010

    I'm sorry, but the party of "No" is the Democrats... NO one is allowed to have input on any legislation... they changed the locks in Congress so NO GOP or IND can sit in on their own comittee meetings, Obama told CSPAN NO to broadcasting health care deliberations, Obama has said NO to 90% of his campaign promises, Obama told millions of firefighters NO to keeping their retirement accounts intact (the true owners of GM, not the UAW), Obama said NO to restricting bonus's at Mae and Mac, Obama said NO to our trade agreement with Central America (causing an embargo of US goods), Obama said NO to off shore drilling and now oil has tripled in price, Obama said NO to drilling in 1% of ANWR (costing 130,000 jobs), Obama has said a BIG FAT NO to fiscal responsibility... about the only YES from Obama has been increasing the national debt to $14 TRILLION by summer...

  • Worland Jan 15, 2010

    I find it amazing Obama can send 10,000 troops to Haiti in 72 hours, but couldn't manage to make a decision on sending troops to Afghanistan in 90+ days.

    The US has invaded Haiti many times in the last 100 years. Let's not forget Clinton also sent US invasion troops there in 1994. There are 7000 UN peace keepers in Haiti already... really no reason to send 10,000 US troops and spend all kinds of money we don't have... just saying...

  • fakename Jan 15, 2010

    Bill Brasky,
    He is doing great with Haiti but what about the US? Last I heard not so good......

  • soyousay Jan 15, 2010

    Veyor-
    Odd choice of forum for some fort of liberal baiting thing-but not surprising. More than likely more than a 100,000 human beings are dead or dying- all types of people I might add - geographically on our doorstep. Senior Bush and Clinton are working together to help. Caring people of what ever political leaning are gathering resources or are already there. It takes all types, it appears.

  • cubed32696 Jan 15, 2010

    This is not the time to play political games and when I see things like this:

    How bout our government fixing things here (hello the economy is in shambles with unemployment high) at home before helping the world...--NCTrue

    I have to respond – most attempts to create jobs and improve the economy have been knocked down by the Party-of-No. What do you think the effort to reform health insurance is? That is certainly an attempt to “fix” things here in the US. This is the best example when people like you make such ridiculous statements. So you really should be making statements when you are obviously part of the problem.

    Everyone’s concerns should be with the people of Haiti, NOT their political party. These people are disparate for aid.

  • Adelinthe Jan 15, 2010

    So many with old information or no knowledge at all making remarks here.

    The bottom line and the heart of the matter is this...

    IF SOMEONE NEEDS HELP AND YOU CAN GIVE IT, YOU DO SO.

    Otherwise the world ain't worth living in.

    And I'll tell you, it's in times of need that our military really shines. God bless them.

    Sending prayers to those in need, and to all those providing need.

    God bless.

    RB

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