26 May 2004
The Pentagon says it hopes to bring home by the end of the June the nearly 2,000 Marines deployed in Haiti since February on a peacekeeping mission.
Brigadier General David Rodriguez of the Pentagon's Joint Staff says a United Nations-backed peacekeeping force will start deploying in Haiti next week.
General Rodriguez says that following a brief transition period, the U.S. Marines being relieved by the U.N. force will return home.
"That follow-on force will begin to flow in at the beginning of June and we'll start the transition at the beginning of June and we'll have all the Marines home by the end of June unless something significantly changes," he said.
There are some 1,900 U.S. Marines in Haiti as part of an interim multi-national force that includes troops from Canada, Chile and France. The American-led forces entered Haiti at the end of February to restore security in the wake of political unrest that prompted the country's president to abandon his post and flee.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the follow-on force will have about 6,700 military personnel and should be in place to relieve the interim peacekeeping troops in June.
In the meantime, General Rodriguez says the Marines in Haiti have been involved in relief efforts for victims of the severe flooding and mudslides that have struck the border area between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
"Combined Joint Task Force Haiti has airlifted more than 35,000 pounds of water and 10 pallets of food supplies," said General Rodriguez. "Additionally we have dispatched a civil affairs and Marine security team to assist U.N. and host nation government officials with relief efforts."
At least 500 people have been killed and thousands left homeless.