U.S. military aircraft lands in Haiti. Pentagon says it’s supplies, personnel for embassy

·7 min read

The Biden administration sent sorely needed reinforcements to Haiti on Tuesday, deploying a U.S. military aircraft to Port-au-Prince weeks after notifying the U.S. Congress it would be providing millions of dollars’ worth of weapons and ammunition to help Haiti National Police officers take on ruthless gangs.

The first aircraft to land on the country’s main runway since an insurgency by armed groups forced the cancellation of all domestic and international flights into the capital nearly two months ago, the military aircraft landed shortly before 11 a.m. Armed gangs are continuing to launch attacks on parts of the capital ahead of the swearing-in of a nine-member presidential council to lead a new political transition in the country.

In a statement, the U.S. Southern Command, based in Doral, said Air Force C-130 plane flew into Toussaint Louverture International Airport “for the planned rotation of personnel to support the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.”

“The security and support personnel who arrived in Haiti will help ensure the U.S. embassy remains open, and operations continue,” the statement said. “The U.S. embassy remains focused on advancing U.S. government efforts to support the Haitian people, including mobilizing support for the Haitian National Police, the Armed Forces of Haiti, and creating conditions for free and fair elections.”

This is not the first time that the U.S. has sent in personnel since the violence. That deployment, however, took place via helicopters under the cover of darkness, leading some observers to believe that the aircraft and military personnel were testing the ability to land at the international airport. Haitian government officials have spent weeks tearing down homes around the perimeter to gain greater visibility and prevent gangs from getting on top of them to shoot onto the runway.

The U.S. statement made no mention of supplies for Haiti cops. However, Haiti police sources said they were also expected — and are greatly needed. Close to 20 officers have been killed or injured and 22 police stations have been pillaged or burned since the coordinated gang attacks erupted on Feb. 29. Since then, Port-au-Prince has remained under siege.

Targeting key government infrastructures with automatic gunfire and looting, armed groups have destroyed and burned dozens of hospitals, schools, businesses and government buildings. They have also launched a series of simultaneous attacks in an attempt to take the international airport and the National Palace, which until now remain under the control of the Haiti National Police members of the small Armed Forces of Haiti.

On Monday, as the United Nations Security Council met in New York to discuss the situation in Haiti, two voice recordings attributed to gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier circulated on social media. The voice urged the burning down of houses in the Lower Delmas neighborhood of the capital, which is under the gang leader’s control.

As they met, Security Council members continued to urge for the swift deployment of a multinational security force, led by Kenya, to assist the Haiti National Police.

The U.S. Southern Command, based in Doral, said an Air Force C-130 plane flew into Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday, April 23, 2004 “for the planned rotation of personnel to support the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.” U.S. Southern Command

The U.S. Southern Command, based in Doral, said an Air Force C-130 plane flew into Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday, April 23, 2004 “for the planned rotation of personnel to support the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.” U.S. Southern Command

Recognizing that the Haiti National Police is the last line of defense, Robert Wood, the U.S. alternative representative for special political affairs to the U.N., commended the department and its specialized units. Woods said they have “conducted successful counter-gang operations,” and continue to improve coordination.

So far, neither the U.S., which supports the Kenya-led mission, nor Kenya have provided a timetable for the mission’s deployment. However, several sources have told the Miami Herald that a deployment of some police officers is imminent.

The State Department has already awarded several contracts for police advisers for the Haiti mission. They include two contracts to Creative Corrections of Beaumont, Texas for $296,927 and $965,432. There are also two contracts to Celestar Corporation of Tampa for nearly $900,000. A job posting on LinkedIn describes the role of a police adviser as a person who will assist the mission’s leadership in the daily requirements of the headquarters in Port-au-Prince and U.S.-based support office.

The mission support office “is anticipated to be in the United States, likely Washington, D.C. or Miami,” the job description said.

Of the 1,000 Kenyan officers who are supposed to serve as the backbone of the force, 400 have been vetted to make sure they have not committed human-rights violations — a requirement for deployment — while another 250 Jamaicans have also been vetted, a State Department spokesperson said.

The ongoing attacks in Haiti have led to the deaths or injuries of more than 2,500 Haitians since the beginning of the year, the deadliest three-months since the United Nations began tracking armed violence by gangs in 2021. The attacks have also exacerbated an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis. More than with 5 million Haitians are in need of assistance while some 360,000 Haitians have had to flee their homes.

Last month, in an attempt to help the Haitian police, President Biden ordered Secretary of State Antony Blinken to notify Congress of the intent to draw down $10 million worth of weapons and ammunition from U.S. agencies to send to Haiti. The donation of firearms to the Haiti National Police marks the first time the U.S., which had a policy of not arming the police, will provide the country with weapons. It is also the first time the U.S. will be assisting the Armed Forces of Haiti.

Earlier this month, Biden authorized the State Department to notify Congress of the intent to direct a draw down of up to $60 million to provide necessary support to partner countries, including Kenya, Jamaica, and The Bahamas, for their personnel to participate in the Multinational Security Support Mission to Haiti.

Until the force is deployed, Haiti will need to increasingly rely on the specialized units of the Haiti National Police that, while successfully taking on gangs in complex operations and blocking takeovers of the airport and the central bank, have also struggled to reverse takeovers when they do happen.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, told reporters in New York on Tuesday that with the international airport in Port-au-Prince still closed, the main seaport barely functioning and roads leading out of the capital blocked, “the procurement of essential supplies including food and medicine is becoming increasingly challenging.”

“Fuel availability has also become a pressing issue with prices soaring on the black market and transportation costs on the rise,” he said.

Fears of a fuel shortage have been exacerbated by a decision on Monday to suspend operations at Varreux, the country’s main fuel terminal, after armed attackers seized trucks and used empty containers, flatbeds and fuel tankers to block roads in Lower Delmas as well as La Saline Boulevard/ Route 9, which lead to the terminal. The men also demanded the port’s closure. While the terminal remains secure, a source said staff were evacuated for their safety. Only security and those who provide basic services remain in the compound.

“the unpredictability of the operations at the airport and the fuel port, inasmuch as their closure is creating quite a lot of damage,” Dujarric said.

Addressing members of the Security Council on Monday, Maria Isabel Salvador, who heads the U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti, said that with the help of the “modest Armed Forces of Haiti” and her political mission, the Haiti National Police “has deployed immense efforts to contain the spiral of violence in the country while being targeted by armed gangs.”

“Nevertheless, the severity of the current crisis underscores the gaps in capacity within the national structures and the urgent need for international assistance, namely through the timely deployment” of the forces from Kenya, she added.


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