Today’s D Brief: Haiti evacuations; Dozens of Red Sea drones; US pier for Gaza; Unwanted Oscar; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

In an overnight operation this weekend, the U.S. military airlifted non-essential embassy personnel from Haiti early Sunday, defense officials at Southern Command announced afterward. Germany also evacuated its ambassador to the adjoining Dominican Republic, AFP reported Monday. The European Union also reduced its presence over the weekend, officials said Sunday afternoon. 

Big picture: Haiti has been gradually deteriorating since an earthquake in 2010 killed 220,000 people and exacerbated strains that had already hampered the country of 11 million.

Haiti has been under various states of emergency for more than a week, with the latest resuming Thursday after gangs attacked the airport and several other locations across Port-au-Prince in the hopes of removing Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Henry took that job after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The gangs began their latest wave of violence on February 29, burning police stations and raiding neighborhoods as food and water sources are dwindling among the country’s ordinary population. Henry has since fled to Puerto Rico after the Dominican Republic refused entry early last week. 

Gangs now control an estimated 80% of the capital city, according to UN officials. Eight days ago, gang members attacked one of the country’s largest prisons and freed nearly 300 convicts; some 4,000 inmates are now estimated to have been freed by the gangs, according to AP. Even before that jailbreak, the country’s 9,000 police were “routinely overwhelmed and outgunned” by the gangs, AP’s Evens Sanon reported from Port-au-Prince. 

To most outside observers, Haiti “seems to no longer have any functioning government and gangs of machete-wielding escaped prisoners have seized control of much of the capitol,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the American Immigration Council. “Corpses [are] piling up in streets of Haiti’s capital” was one Washington Post headline over the weekend. 

The latest: U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with regional leaders Monday in Jamaica under the CARICOM framework of regional nations. 


Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, which allowed the U.S. to supply food, oil, and war materiel to the Brits, Soviets, French, Chinese, and other allied nations until September 1945.

Two National Guard soldiers and one Border Patrol agent were killed Friday when their UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed just before 3 p.m. local time near Rio Grande City, Texas. One other soldier was seriously injured in the accident, which occurred as the uniformed personnel were conducting aviation operations, according to U.S. military officials from Joint Task Force North, which is headquartered at Fort Bliss, Texas. 

Both soldiers were assigned to New York’s 224th Aviation Regiment. Their names are Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, age 28, of Rensselaer, N.Y.; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, age 30, of Schenectady. The Border Patrol agent’s name was Chris Luna; he was 49 when he perished in the accident. He’s survived by his wife and two children, CBP officials said Sunday. 

It’s unclear just yet how the accident happened. The helicopter was flying as part of Operation Lone Star, which the Associated Press writes is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “nearly $10 billion border mission that has tested the federal government’s authority over immigration.”

“These brave Americans dedicated their lives to protecting our nation,” said President Joe Biden in a statement the following day. “Our gratitude is profound, and their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he said. 

“My thoughts are with their families, as well as with the injured soldier,” said Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin in his own statement Saturday. “We will forever honor their service and sacrifice as defenders of our nation.”

“Every single day, our Border Patrol Agents place themselves in harm’s way so that the rest of us can be safe and secure,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday. “My thoughts, and the deepest condolences of our Department, are with Agent Luna’s family, loved ones, and colleagues, and with those of the National Guardsmen who lost their lives. We hope for the injured servicemember’s swift recovery, and hold our National Guard colleagues and their families in our thoughts as well,” he said.

The U.S. and allied militaries’ ships and aircraft shot down 28 drones near the coast of Yemen early Saturday morning, U.S. military officials at Central Command said this weekend. 

U.S. defense officials initially described it as a “large-scale” drone attack using at least 15 unmanned aerial vehicles; hours later they nearly doubled that drone tally in an update. “No U.S. or Coalition Navy vessels were damaged in the attack and there were also no reports by commercial ships of damage,” the officials said. 

The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen lost two truck-mounted anti-ship missiles in a U.S. airstrike Friday morning, CENTCOM said separately. About six hours later, the Houthis apparently tried to attack the Singapore-flagged bulk carrier M/V Propel Fortune; but the missiles did not impact the ship or damage anything, CENTCOM said Friday.

The U.S. military is tasked with building a floating harbor off the coast of Gaza this week following orders late last week from the White House after more than 150 days of fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli troops inside the Gaza Strip. 

The U.S. Army’s support ship, General Frank S. Besson, departed Virginia’s Joint Base Langley-Eustis this weekend headed for the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Central Command officials announced with supporting photos on Saturday. 

The pier is expected to take “several weeks” to build, and “likely up to 60 days in order to deploy the forces and construct the causeway,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday.

Here’s a video explainer about this Joint Logistics Over the Shore capability from Sal Mercoglian, a Merchant Mariner-turned-maritime security professor.  

The U.S. and Jordanian militaries continue their daily airdrops of humanitarian supplies, including “over 27,600 U.S. meal equivalents and approximately 25,900 bottles of water” on Monday, CENTCOM officials said. They dropped “over 11,500 meal equivalents, as well as other food including rice, flour, pasta, and canned food” on Sunday; and “over 41,400 U.S. meal equivalents and 23,000 bottles of water” on Saturday, according to CENTCOM.

And lastly today, congratulations to Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov, whose film “20 Days in Mariupol” won the Oscar for Best Documentary at Sunday night’s 96th Academy Awards ceremony.

The gist: “As the only international reporters who remain in the city as Russian forces close in, [Chernov and other Associated Press journalists] capture[d] what become some of the most defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more,” PBS Frontline wrote in their introduction to the report. 

“Probably I will be the first director on this stage who will say I wish I’d never made this film,” Chernov said when he accepted the award Sunday evening. “I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities,” he said before being interrupted by applause. Watch the rest of his remarks on YouTube, here.



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