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Defense Department Briefing Skipper: Haiti crisis

Defense Department Briefing Skipper: Haiti crisis

Here are the important parts of two Defense Department related briefings on the U.S. government response in Haiti. One was a bloggers roundtable with Gen. Ken Keen, commander of the Joint Task Force, from Monday evening. The second was a Pentagon briefing with Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy JTF commander, Tuesday morning:

  • "The security situation is relatively calm," said Keen, "What I would say is these are pockets of violence, and we are being very vigilant to watch that closely." The Brazilian-led UN mission is in the lead as far as security goes.
  • Allyn reported that the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived Tuesday morning and will deploy about 800 of its 2,200 personnel on shore, adding to 1,000 deployed soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The Comfort hospital ship will arrive Wednesday morning.
  • Allyn said here were now over 2,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground and another 5,000 or so offshore. By the end of the week there will be about 5,000 personnel on the ground and 10,000 total military personnel in the area.
  • The USS Batan, a multipurpose amphibious ship, arrived Monday, and its personnel will be deployed southwest of Port-au-Prince, where aid has been slow to materialize. A Canadian force of about 2,000 has arrived and will be deployed to Jacmel, south of the capital city. Keen hopes to have two more ports in the south usable by the end of the week.
  • The U.S. distributed 233,000 bottles of water on Monday, bringing the total to about 400,000, as well as 140,000 rations on Monday, brining that total to about 300,000. 12,000 pounds of medical supplies have been delivered.  There are about 3.5 million people in need. "This is a drop in the bucket in terms of the need, but we are doing more every day and we will continue to do that," Keen said.
  • C-17 Transport planes dropped 15,000 meals and 15,000 bottles of water on Haiti Monday and more sites are being looked at for additional drops. Monday there were 180 flights landed with no delays. Two more runways are being looked at to increase flights.
  • A "humanitarian coordination center" is being set up at MINUSTAH, under Brazilian Maj. Gen. Floriano Peixoto, who commands the U.N. force there, to evaluate aid contributions and determine how they fit with needs.
  • Keen also explained why a mobile hospital being flown in by Doctors Without Borders was turned away from the airport. Apparently, a plane on the tarmac was having maintenance issues couldn’t take off as scheduled, preventing the plane with the hospital equipment from landing. Eventually, the medical plane had to divert to Dominican Republic due to fuel issues and bring the supplies over land.
  • "That’s extremely unfortunate, and it certainly is not what we want to see. And clearly, we wanted that field hospital on the tarmac," said Keen, adding, "This has happened a number of times."