Biden Rejects US Troop Deployment to Haiti as Crisis Spirals

by Braxton Taylor

The Biden administration will not send U.S. troops to Haiti to help its national police respond to a rapidly evolving security crisis, as a united front of gang leaders has led attacks on the country’s main seaport, airports and prisons, a White House official told McClatchy.

Their decision comes after a frantic 72 hours of communication between U.S. and Haitian diplomatic officials raised the prospect of an emergency deployment of U.S. special forces to respond to the crisis, fearing that a long-planned international security mission, to be led by Kenya, would not be ready to deploy in time to respond.

“The United States is not sending U.S. troops to Haiti to support the Haitian national police’s security operations,” a National Security Council official said. “We are urgently mobilizing all support we and the international community can immediately provide Haiti, especially to the Haitian national police, to ensure they are able to restore security for the sake of the people.”

Gangs that had previously worked apart have recently united to challenge what remaining control the Haitian government, led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has over the country and its capital.

On Monday, security forces engaged in an hourslong gun battle with gang members attempting to take over the international airport in Port-au-Prince, after gangs successfully orchestrated major prison breaks two days prior and laid siege to the country’s main port. Henry is currently attempting to return home from a trip to Kenya to finalize the deal for a deployment of an armed force.

Haiti declared a state of emergency, and the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince issued an alert calling on U.S. citizens to leave immediately on commercial or private aircraft, even with the airport under attack.

The White House is working to “expedite” the deployment of the Kenya-led force, John Kirby, White House National Security Communications Advisor, told reporters on Monday.

“Through the weekend, senior U.S. government officials remained in close contact with senior Haitian government officials and members of the international community to help stabilize the situation and to move quickly toward an enduring political solution,” Kirby said. “We’re working with international partners to provide immediate support to the Haitian national police and expedite the deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission that will help restore security urgently. Violence serves only to delay a democratic transition while destroying and upending the lives of thousands.”

The Biden administration has said it intends to provide $200 million to the mission. But the State Department has faced opposition from skeptical Republican lawmakers in Congress who have blocked the disbursement of a $50 million request to help get the mission going.

Last week, Kenyan President William Ruto said a bilateral police-and security-sharing agreement with Haiti was the final step and declared his 1,000 police officers are ready. However, Ruto’s government has also promised its parliament that officers will not be deployed until the funding is in place.

©2024 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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