U.S. official says U.N. resolution on Haiti is urgent: ‘We are moving as fast as we can’



U.S. officials are “circling the globe” recruiting countries to join a long-planned multilateral force to intervene in Haiti, increasingly concerned that armed gangs now control roughly 80 percent of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, a top American diplomat said Wednesday.

But foreign governments are telling Washington they will not commit to the effort until the United Nations Security Council endorses the mission – a resolution that appears stalled at the council, with Russia and China raising questions over the structure of the force and insisting on a proposal from Haiti in writing on the exact nature its request for help.

Todd Robinson, U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said at an event at the Wilson Center on Wednesday that the U.S. is moving urgently to stand up the “Multinational Security Support” mission, drafting a resolution with Ecuador that it hopes will receive a vote shortly.

. “There should be no illusions about how urgently we, the U.S. government, see this,” Robinson said. “We don’t have the option of doing nothing, because people are suffering. That said, that doesn’t make it any less complicated.”

“We are moving as fast as we can,” Robinson added. “Will we get it done in time? That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Violence in Haiti has been escalating since July, with tens of thousands of Haitians forced to abandon their homes in neighborhoods in the capital.

The U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince has warned Americans twice in recent weeks to leave the country “as soon as possible.” And on Tuesday, the U.S. embassy in neighboring Dominican Republic also warned U.S. citizens planning to depart Haiti for the Dominican Republic that they may not be able to do so after Thursday, because of the possible closure of air, sea and land borders between the two countries.

Kenya has offered to consider leading the security support mission in Haiti. But specifics on its role — including whether Kenyan forces will go on the offensive against gangs in the streets — remain unclear.

A Kenyan assessment team recently visited Port-au-Prince, New York and Washington to determine the expectations for the mission, Robinson said.

But the assistant secretary declined to say whether the United States expects Kenyan forces to be out front in the fight, stating that the nature of their role will be decided by Kenya, Haiti and the United Nations. Haitians have criticized an initial proposal by Kenya to send a “static” force that would only secure critical infrastructure such as the airport, seaport and police academy.

While the U.S. is supporting a foreign intervention into Haiti, it does not want to lead it – a position that has forced Washington to search for an alternative leader over the course of nearly a year.

Robinson pushed back against the notion that the U.S. would not have a direct role in the mission, after Washington searched for months to find another country to lead it.

“The notion that we won’t be involved is also wrong,” Robinson said. “There are areas where we absolutely will be directly involved in this mission. But again, we have to be cognizant of history. We have to be cognizant of what other priorities are out there. And this is not one country’s issue to solve. This has become and has been an international crisis for a long time, and it’s going to take an international response to get to the right place.”

The Wilson Center panel was moderated by Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles and included William O’Neill, an independent expert on human rights in Haiti designated by the United Nations, and Juan Gabriel Valdés, Chile’s ambassador to the United States.

Both O’Neill and Valdés emphasized that the Haitian government “is absent” in the streets of the capital. While O’Neill urged the intervention to occur sooner rather than later, Valdés raised concerns about whether it can be successful without a legitimate government or political accord.

Haiti’s caretaker prime minister, Ariel Henry, and opposition and civil society groups have been at loggerheads over how to govern the country since the July 7, 2021, assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

“The state is absent. It’s totally absent in these areas, in Port-au-Prince and right outside,” O’Neill said. “I don’t have a Plan B if this doesn’t work. It has to work.”

Valdés said that Latin American countries have declined to take the lead on a mission to Haiti for several reasons, including an increase in crime at home that would make a foreign police mission politically unfeasible.

But Valdés also questioned whether Haiti’s gangs would fear Latin American forces — or Kenyan forces — to the same degree they would fear taking on the Americans.

“This is a very serious difficulty not just for Latin America, but for the United States,” Valdés said. “If this doesn’t work, the pressure on all of us will be enormous. But the pressure on the U.S. will be even greater.”

Robinson pushed back against the suggestion that the United States is failing to act.

«You mean directly acting?” he asked Valdés. “We are acting.”

Mark Green, the former administrator of USAID and current president of the Wilson Center, said that Kenya’s offer to help Haiti’s police quell the violence is a “glimmer of hope” in an otherwise bleak environment.

. “Ultimately it will be the mission they have — and the resources they receive— that will determine whether these glimmers are lasting and meaningful,” Green said.

The objective can’t be merely to take Haiti off the front pages,” he added. “It must be to address the profound dysfunction in the country’s government.”

MICHAEL WILNER 202-383-6083 Michael Wilner is McClatchy’s Senior National Security and White House Correspondent. A member of the White House team since 2019, he led coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilner previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. He holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City. Take Us With You Real-time updates and all local stories you want right in the palm of your hand.


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