Briefing by State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills and USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah on the Situation in Haiti

Friday, January 15, 2010
Situation in Haiti

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Today, food, water, shelter, and medical support are all flowing to Haiti. The arrival of the USS Carl Vinson allows us to expand our ability to deliver this vital assistance to the people of Haiti. And as we are delivering that assistance, we are bringing more and more Americans from Haiti out from the island. But even as we are focused on this disaster response, we are also focused on the longer term – how to sustain this relief operation over weeks and months, and how ultimately the United States, working with the international community, will help Haiti rebuild.

But to provide some perspective on what we’re facing today, but also to give you a sense of the longer-term challenges, we again have Cheryl Mills, our Counselor to the Secretary of State, as well as our able Administrator Raj Shah. We’ll start with Cheryl.

MS. MILLS: Thank you so much. Good morning, now almost afternoon, I believe. First of all, I want to just start out by saying that our commitment, the United States commitment to Haiti, is a long and deep one. And it is one that President Obama spoke about, is not only going to be in their hour of need, but is going to be for the long term.

And that’s something that President Obama just reiterated in a 30-minute conversation he had with President Preval shortly ago. They spoke for quite some time and they spoke about not only the need for the immediate recovery, but also the need for the long-term rebuilding. That’s something that Secretary Clinton has been focused on for quite some time here at the State Department – the commitment to being a partner with Haiti as they were building towards economic growth and sustainability.

We’ve been focused on that primarily because Haiti is not only our neighbor, but also we have a unique and special relationship with Haiti, and the needs in Haiti have always been needs that have been larger than the needs that you would anticipate in such a small space. And so we had been focused on thinking about how we could ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of their agriculture, of their energy, and of their health sectors in addition to being effective partners with them as they thought about their justice sectors. And we are going to continue to think in this moment of crisis about how, as we build and rebuild for the long term, that we do it cognizant of the ways in which we can catalyze the kind of economic and sustainable growth that is rightfully part of Haiti’s future. And so that is a commitment that we will continue.

We have been coordinating very closely with the Haitian Government. Our ambassador has been in touch with President Preval and Prime Minister Bellerive. They have met several times yesterday. They are meeting again today, have already had one meeting, will be meeting again. That regular contact is allowing the kinds of things that need to get done and the kind of leadership that the Haitian Government is able to assert to ensure that we are acting consistent with not only the immediate goals and needs, but also that we are working in a partnership with the international community in a way that ensures the kind of coordination that is critical at this moment, given the number of countries, the number of disaster assistance relief organizations, and the number of people who are on the ground who both are in need and are providing support.

The UN has arrived with their new UN leadership who we are closely coordinating with and who we are committed to supporting in their role both in disaster assistance and in the role that they provide in providing long-term security in Haiti. MINUSTAH has been there for quite some time. We’re committed to providing whatever support, but our military who is there are there on a humanitarian and a relief mission, and we are quite clear about that.

The Secretary also called today to express her condolences to the family of Victoria DeLong, who was a Foreign Service officer who lost her life in this terrible, terrible situation. We are, of course, very deeply saddened not only by her loss, but the many, many losses of lives of Haitians and so many others who have – were in Haiti at the time that the earthquake struck.

I want to just take a moment and say thank you to the American people who have been unrelenting in the amount of support that they have shown with respect to a portal that we set up for donations to be made. That portal is for those individuals who want to text Haiti, H-a-i-t-i, and dash – and you do that by dashing – dash 90999. That portal has raised more than $9 million to date for the Red Cross, and we are hopeful that that money will be put to great use on behalf of the Haitian people. We want to thank everybody who has already been making those commitments and encourage others to do so because it provides the maximum flexibility for addressing the needs that the Haitians have on the ground right now.

So to speak further about that, I’m going to turn to my colleague, Ambassador Raj Shah.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Hello. I wanted to provide an update building on the points just raised. Of course, the conversation the President had with President Preval is a clear demonstration of the partnership that we have at that level and at all levels. Many of our disaster assistance response leaders on the ground have had continual contact with different ministries in the Haitian Government, with different levels of government there, and with their United Nations colleagues so that we pursue our work in a swift and aggressive and coordinated manner.

I wanted to provide an update on the leadership of our work in Haiti, on our search-and-rescue efforts, and then introduce the major components of our relief operation. Our disaster assistance response team, led by Tim Callahan, is in the process of doubling in size. We’re bolstering its capabilities to use satellite imagery and improve its planning capacities to make sure that it has the resources and the capacities to really help be strategic and targeted about putting assets and putting commodities in the hands of the nonprofit organizations and other types of entities on the ground that can deliver those services to people and that we can map that in an effective way and make sure we’re covering affected areas in a broad and effective manner.

Our urban search-and-rescue teams, there are now 24 total teams on the ground actively engaged in search-and-rescue. Most of these teams have between 70 and 80 individuals and are fully equipped. Four of those teams are from the United States. Of course, our Fairfax, Virginia team was the first one on the ground and has been actively providing service support and leadership to make sure this effort is coordinated and effective.

We continue to send additional capabilities and will continue to send teams, but our belief is now that there is a significant urban search-and-rescue effort underway. And it is still attempting to save lives. There is still an important open window of time – today, tonight, and perhaps even parts of tomorrow – when we have the ability to save lives – Haitian lives, American lives, and the lives of partner government and people that are there on the ground.

We are also mounting today a major relief operation. This, of course, has been in planning and works for – since the beginning of this crisis. The United States is mounting this operation in close coordination between the FEMA, the USAID, a number of other civilian agencies, and the Department of Defense, that as the President noted, is today – now has the aircraft carrier, the Vinson, there. And that will dramatically improve our capabilities to provide critically needed commodities and service support to the NGO partners and to other partners and directly to the Haitian public, as necessary.

There are a few important principles of this relief operation that I wanted to highlight. Our first and foremost goal is to meet basic needs: food, water, shelter, blankets, tarps. Those are the types of things that we are focused on meeting in a sustainable and effective way.

Second, as with our urban search-and-rescue operation, we want this operation to be deeply coordinated, both across civilian and military assets of the United States and, even more important, across all of the different relief efforts that are taking place with other countries and other organizations. So we’ve been actively engaged in staying connected with those partners.

Third, we want this to be the groundwork for a sustainable redevelopment of Haiti and of Port-au-Prince. As the counselor has mentioned, we’ve had a longstanding and important relationship with Haiti with significant financial flows and significant partnerships to improve the development and health outcomes for that population. So we want to do things now that lay the groundwork for being effective in that area in the future.

And fourth, we really do want people thinking out of the box. In this next few days, we are confident that we’ll be able to provide the traditional channels of distribution, the NGO partners and the other humanitarian relief partners with enough commodities and support to saturate their basic distribution capacities given the limited capacities that so many partners have in this current context. We are working with those partners and trying to ask – and we want to thank so many of them for really being creative in thinking about how they might do things differently to expand their reach and expand their ability to reach affected populations. And that will continue to be very important to make sure we have the broadest reach possible.

I’d like to run through a few quick numbers to provide a sense of scale. On food, we already have mobilized and have en route 600,000 humanitarian daily rations. These will be provided via the aircraft carrier as the mechanism of entry. In addition, we are mobilizing – we have mobilized $48 million worth of food assistance. This will be enough food assistance to provide several months of food for the affected population of 2 million individuals. And in addition to that, we’re continuing to work with the World Food Program and a range of other partners to mobilize even greater commodities of food and items of food and different capacities to improve local milling efforts and other efforts to make sure that Haiti has the food it needs now and into the near future.

On water, we are in the process of mobilizing 100,000 10-liter containers, collapsible containers, so that people can access potable water and we can prevent some of the challenges that will occur if that is limited, especially in the area of public health. We believe 20,000 of those will arrive today as part of the initial lift of commodities that is on its way.

We have four major water purification systems identified, plus the water purification and production capacities of the military assets, the ships that will be there. So we are confident we’ll be able to improve the situation in terms of access to potable water. We have six more that have been identified and* other storage and warehouse facilities that USAID manages around the world, and we’re mobilizing those to be able to enter Haiti as soon as possible.

And finally, we’re working aggressively on a range of other commodity categories like shelter, blankets, and tarps, and working with our partners on the ground to identify how those can best be deployed. But we are confident we’ll have the ability to send significant commodities, significant materials, and significant supplies, and we are working with our partners to identify the very best ways to make sure they’re distributed to an affected population.

Thank you.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask Dr. Shah a question about some of those figures you just provided. It sounds like this is what you intend to do starting today in terms of actually delivering water and food and so forth. Has nothing been delivered directly up to this point, and why not, by the U.S.?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: No, we’ve already had deliveries of commodities from the very beginning of this effort. This is a different scale of that. Our initial – we had limited capacity to send things into Haiti and we made our immediate priority saving lives, and so urban search-and-rescue and the operation to save lives was part of that immediate effort. Now we have military transport and logistic capabilities, we have support and cooperation and partnership at the airport, and a number of other transport routes that we’re working on that will expand the capacity to send more.

So this has been underway. The minute this happened, all of these things began to be mobilized. The reason we can start to have things there is we did not hesitate one moment in really unloading the vast majority of our stocks and assets to make sure this could get there as soon as possible.

QUESTION: So is the U.S. military mainly distributing these materials or is it going through the NGOs mainly?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, the distribution – well, transport and logistics to get there is a combination of civilian charter and military capacities to get those materials there as soon as possible. It’s really whatever is most effective. And in terms of distributing things when we’re there, we will first work with partners and NGOs to saturate their capacity to reach affected populations and then push into direct delivery and other – a range of other potential solutions consistent with our partnerships with the UN and with other actors on the ground to make sure we do that in a smart and coordinated way.

QUESTION: To make it a bit more concrete, so which areas and what are these areas, the badly hit areas? How soon will they be getting this relief?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, I’ve been away from my desk for about 90 minutes, so I’m not sure exactly what’s been – what folks are getting. Tim Callahan is our Disaster Assistance Response Team leader on the ground and he’s coordinating that together with the military. But they’re already – people have already been receiving a series of relief items from the United States. This is going to expand that capacity dramatically, and today, people will start receiving many of these items as we get these things into Haiti.

QUESTION: But even if you go – you know, ignore the past 90 minutes. How many Haitians have received American aid so far? And what areas have they been receiving? What have they been receiving?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, I would have to come back to you on specifics on that. Our immediate priority up till now has been – and it continues to be because we’re still in a lifesaving window of the urban search-and-rescue effort. And so that’s been the immediate priority. We have, in addition, been coordinating – we all see the photos of the commodities that are arriving at the airport. We’ve been coordinating and distributing that to NGO partners who are reaching people.

MS. MILLS: And I think the other point is the kinds of specifics you’re asking for, Tim Callahan will be briefing today with General Keen and also with Ambassador Merten at 2 o'clock, and so they will anticipate being able to address those kinds of questions specifically since they’re there on the ground.

QUESTION: Is that local time?

QUESTION: Kirit Radia with ABC News.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: That’s 2 o’clock our time, yes, which is Haitian time.

QUESTION: Kirit Radia with ABC News. Just a quick question for the administrator on the search-and-rescue efforts. Can you tell us how many actual Haitians, local Haitians, have been rescued by this? There’s been some criticism on the ground from – among locals that these search-and-rescues are targeting foreigners, the wealthy, that kind of thing.

And then a question for Cheryl, if I might, on what the Secretary’s been doing, if you can update us on that, since she came back and cut her trip short. Thanks.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: We, from the very moment we sent the first team in, sent that team in with direct guidance to reach Haitians and to make saving Haitian lives a priority along with saving lives of U.S. citizens and looking at the UN complex to try to save the people who could help coordinate and lead this effort going forward. I don’t have specific numbers on the number of Haitians that have been saved.

I do know that with 24 teams working – this is very, very hard work. I mean, we were tracking the first team when it worked overnight to save one life. And it was a tremendous achievement. They spent six, seven hours going through the rubble and cutting through layers of concrete, sending in water by line and other supplies to help support the gentleman that was saved. And so it is long, hard work. I don’t want to create high expectations that these teams can go out there and be wildly successful very rapidly. These people are taking tremendous risks. This is very difficult work. They work around the clock. But the situation they’re in is really tragic, and it’s very, very difficult.

MS. MILLS: Just to address your second one, Kirit, Secretary Clinton did cut her trip short. She has been spending a lot of her time on the phone with other foreign ministers, speaking about the critical need for the kind of coordination that we would actually like to have and ensuring that the kind of leadership that the UN actually can provide is actually supported there. She has also been expressing her desire, both here and in meetings that have been with the President and others, to ensure that we have the kind of support and commitment that is necessary for this type of effort. So she’s been doing a fair amount and anticipates continuing to be on the phones, working the phones, as well as providing support to our whole-of-government effort in this regard.


QUESTION: Dr. Shah – I have one for Cheryl and one for Dr. Shah.

Dr. Shah, you say that there’s this open window to save lives. Do you have any idea, given that – now that you have this satellite imagery and stuff, how many people are still kind of alive down there that can be rescued? I’m not saying you’ll be able to save them all but, I mean, what kind of numbers are we looking at in terms of actually possibly could be rescued?

And then, Cheryl, there’s some talk by president – former President Aristide about wanting to return to Haiti. He says that he feels horrible and he wants to go back with his wife and is ready to take some supplies. I mean, given the fact that he was such a divisive figure in the country, forget about the burden that it would take security-wise to handle such a visit, I mean, what is the U.S. position on this? And have they sent out – have you sent out signals through Secretary Clinton or any other officials in the building to President Aristide that now is or is not the time to go back to Haiti? Thanks.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I’ll just say I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to guess or target how many lives could be saved. We have hundreds of – probably more than 300 American professionals with equipment and with capacities to do this work, working around the clock in difficult and dangerous environments, putting themselves at risk to really give this effort full effort. We also have all of the other teams that constitute 24 total teams. So I respect their commitment and their full effort to save lives, but we don’t have the –

QUESTION: I’m wondering, how many people do you think that are still alive down there.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: It’s – that’s very hard to try to address.


MS. MILLS: We’ve been focused on, obviously, trying to make sure – our target is how we can provide the support necessary and the assistance necessary for the relief and rescue. We appreciate that, at least we read in the media, that President Aristide has made these comments. We have not, obviously, focused on them as much as we’ve focused on the need to ensure that we are providing the level of support and commitment that is necessary for the Haitian people at this time. We obviously are aware of that and will be taking stock of that, and if there is something more that we have with respect to that, I will make sure to get back to you with that.


QUESTION: This question is for Cheryl. I mean, there’s a perception, kind of, that the U.S. is going back into Haiti again and is going to be there for some very long time. But at the same time, in recent years, there’s a lot of talk that Brazil and a lot of Latin American countries bring a lot more to Haiti than they used to. My question is, going forward, how is the Obama Administration kind of going to make sure that we’re not seen as recolonizing the place, considering how much devastation there’s been there?

And also, are you looking at Haiti as kind of a potential model for how the Obama Administration works with Latin American countries, given the President’s kind of outreach and his attempts to redefine that relationship?

MS. MILLS: I thought only lawyers asked that many multipart questions, but let me try and step through that.

The United States commitment to Haiti has been a long one and it has been one of the countries that, over many years, we’ve had a substantial amount of development aid and commitment there. We have been part of the MIINUSTAH effort that is there, providing tremendous financial support to that as well as larger-scaled development support for Haiti. So our commitment in the hemisphere to Haiti is a very long-established one, and we anticipate that being – to continuing. So I don’t think there’s something new about our efforts in this regard.

In terms of the construct around how we will do this, we’ve been doing this in partnership with the Haitian Government. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to work directly with President Preval. I’ve had the pleasure of working with his ministers as well. We’ve been able to do that in an effective partnership, and that has been one of the nice things about this relative period of calm that has been in Haiti for the last nine to 12 months. It’s been a great window to be able to try and accomplish any number of different things. And his government has been committed to be providing the leadership in that regard. They have done so by actually laying out specific plans and strategies for how the international community can be a good partner to them. And in April of last year, there was a donor conference where all of the different countries came together and said we want to do this in partnership with Haiti, and Haiti has a plan.

I think that spirit is the sprit in which people are arriving today. They are not looking in any way to be anything other than a partner to Haiti and ensure Haiti’s long-term sustainability and success for the Haitian people, for the Haitian Government, because they are entitled to that. And we know that, in order to do that well, we can only do that in partnership. We cannot do that by taking over. We have no intentions of doing so.

QUESTION: I wanted to follow up. I wanted to follow up on his question. I mean, you don’t want to be anything other than a partner, but de facto, you may be running the show when you get on the ground. I mean, even the government setup has been destroyed. I mean, can you give us concrete details, how you’re working with the Haitians? I mean --

MS. MILLS: Well, two things.

QUESTION: -- who’s the contact with the health minister, for example? Have you drafted a plan? Is it the Haitians who are providing the roadmap for recovery or is it you?

MS. MILLS: Well, two things to think about. I doubt that in the last two days they’ve drafted a plan for recovery for Haiti, because I think that might be a little bit more than even we could accomplish.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. MILLS: But I do think a couple of things. The Haitians have been very clear with us, through their leadership. Indeed, one of the first things that Prime Minister Bellerive laid out and that President Preval reiterated on the first day of the crisis was what their priorities were. Their ambassador did the same thing. Their priorities were rescue assistance, medical supplies, communication, and also help with their energy sector. We have been working with them in those regards. They established those priorities.

As a secondary matter, they are also very clear – and those of you who will have had the pleasure of being in the presence of President Preval know that he is the leader of his country, and you also have the pleasure of knowing that he is confident in that leadership, as are his ministers. I think part of the challenges that are being faced right now are quite challenging because the communications structure and a lot of other structures are not present. That doesn’t mean they’re not communicating with our ambassador. He’s been meeting with them every day, and they are quite clear about what their needs and goals are. They also have been quite clear about welcoming and being grateful for the partnership that we’ve provided and the partnership that the entire international community has been providing, including many of the Latin American countries and others. And we are respectful of that.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Could I just offer one example? Because you raised health. Our USAID Mission Director Carleene Dei visited with and met with the health minister in Haiti. Coming out of that, the health minister requested that we help them begin the process of developing a hospital network in Port-au-Prince. So as we came back and thought about how could we respond to their request, we identified resources at the Department of Health and Human Services and are sending in a number of disaster medical emergency team – assistance teams. And those teams will be placed in the physical sites where the health ministry would like to begin to develop the infrastructure for a longer-term and more sustainable health services provision sector. So that’s just one example, but that is the way we hope to work in partnership and in responsiveness to requests from the Haitian Government.


QUESTION: I actually wanted to follow up on some of this. You say the health ministry seems to be working. Are there other ministries that are working? And also, the police seem to not be showing up for work. Does the 82nd Airborne have authority to arrest, to detain people? I mean, what sort of authorities to they have from the Haitian Government?

MS. MILLS: So I think one thing just to remember when you’re speaking of the police, obviously they’ve suffered a tremendous trauma themselves. They’ve no doubt lost family and others. And so just as any of us in a situation like that would be searching for our families, they, too, are doing that. And I think that is something that is completely human.

I also think it’s important to remember that MINUSTAH has a long presence. The UN security forces have a long presence in Haiti. And as a part of that team, there are a large police force contingent that is a part of that security force. They have been present. They are providing the leadership in that respect and we are anticipating them continuing to provide that leadership with respect to the security of Haiti.

Our folks are there – all of our folks, military and civilian, are there for a humanitarian and disaster assistance relief operation. That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they will continue to do.

QUESTION: And just a quick follow-up on that. Given your experience with previous disasters, how long would you expect the – particularly, the military U.S. component to be there? And going forward with this longer-term commitment, are you envisioning a scale-up, a big scale-up of U.S. civilian helpers, AID and others? Are we looking at a sort of a civilian surge on the Afghan model or what?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, let me address both those points. On the first one, certainly as we do the planning, the planning is all guided by what are the assets and capacities that Haiti needs to have as capacity there so that these military assets can be withdrawn. So, for example, in planning the water support, the goal is to consider, well, how much water – how much potable water would we need produced by the ships that are down there? What can that do to help stabilize the situation in the coming days and weeks? But what can we do in parallel to that to help build strong local capacity so that that’s not necessary anymore?

The goal very much for every sector where we’re developing a strategic approach is around how do you help build the local capacity, with the great local nonprofit organizations and under the leadership of the Haitian Government, to make sure that these emergency assets can go back.

But I think it’s important to recognize that this is an immediate emergency. And I think at today’s 2 o’clock briefing, Tim Callahan will be able to describe the extent to which there are significant immediate needs. And I’m – and so it’s our responsibility, and the President has directed us, to be very responsive to meeting those needs in any way possible in this immediate timeframe.

QUESTION: Just on the military side, would this be a period of weeks, or would this be a period of months? I mean, many of the severe needs that they have are independent of the earthquake, and once you start building water systems and trying to ensure health delivery and so on, you’ve got a crisis on your hand that’s ongoing. So how long is this crisis response going to last?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, right now, this is a crisis operation and a disaster relief operation. So we will be assessing that carefully. Our priority is to build that local capacity so that all of these crisis and disaster assets can essentially be withdrawn. And the development professionals at AID and other parts of government are very focused on how do we do things that build that sustainable capacity. That’s the key phrase we use in our planning and our thinking, but with the caveat that we are under direct orders and we intend to provide direct relief because this is an emergency situation.

QUESTION: But are you talking about – like, when you talk about building local capacity, are you talking about training and that type of stuff for the Haitian people? Because I’m not really sure about the plan –

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, I can give you another --

QUESTION: -- that you had before, but –

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: It depends upon --

QUESTION: -- it sounds like when you rebuild, you have to teach people to implement what you’re putting on the ground.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I think that – I would respectively suggest that that concept is perhaps not as applicable to Haiti. Haiti has a very resilient and very capable population. I’ll give you one example. There are milling capacities to mill wheat in Haiti. And if we can provide milling equipment to get one or two of those big plants running, they can take wheat and they can mill it and they can use their local food systems to distribute food and to meet needs. And our partners can work to buy that food locally.

That’s not going to happen right away, but we’re already planning for that. Because the goal is not to have long-term food aid; the goal is to meet an immediate emergency response so people can eat, and to, at the same time, lay the groundwork for a sustainable agriculture and food system so that – because that’s what’s most important over the long run.

QUESTION: The image of the U.S. military around the world is obviously of warriors in a lot of cases. But when you have a disaster of this magnitude, it seems like the U.S. military is asked to play a vital role in saving lives and rushing assistance to people in need. I’m wondering if you could take a moment just to talk a little bit about what the military is bringing to this operation and what it means to the whole operation.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, the military has been very much a part of this operation from the moment we stood up our emergency team that’s working across the federal government. They bring a full range of assets and capabilities, including – ranging from the satellite imagery that I discussed earlier that we hope will help inform the capacity of our disaster assistance team to do things in a strategic and well-considered manner, to the transport and logistics that’s providing – that got many of our urban search-and-rescue teams on the ground, managing and supporting the operations at the airport so that that can be efficient and as high throughput as possible in a safe and effective manner, providing transport and logistics support for much of this relief operation.

So it is a significant set of capabilities, not to mention just the partnership with DOD leadership in considering what are the best strategies to meet immediate needs and to do that in a way where we’re clear about making sure we have – we’re investing in those things as well that will allow us to leave over time, so --

QUESTION: A point of clarification on that answer. Are you saying that the U.S. military’s role – you’re essentially ruling out that it would be a security role? They’re not going to play a security role? It’s going to be the UN only, or are you leaving that door open?

MS. MILLS: Well, I think – can I address that just for a second?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Yes, absolutely.

MS. MILLS: I think two things. I think as a practical matter, what we’re focused on, as Raj has spoken to, right now, is the assistance and relief. We obviously will look to the UN for whatever support is appropriate, and we will provide that support consistent with the leadership that they’re providing on the ground. Our goal and our immediate mission is to provide, actually, disaster assistance and relief, and that’s what we’re anticipating providing.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t quite answer my question. Are you ruling out that in the future, in the days and weeks ahead, that the U.S. military could play a security role or will be limited to support?

MS. MILLS: So, I think ruling in or ruling out anything beyond the disaster assistance or relief would be premature, because I think we have no assessment of the overarching frame. What we do know is that what our expectations for our team to be doing is disaster assistance and relief. We have a very strong security component on the ground in the UN team that’s already there. They have played a very strong leadership role very effectively in Haiti, led by a very effective Brazilian commander. We are anticipating them to continue to provide the leadership and to continue to play that role. We are not anticipating that that’s a role that we have to provide, but we are committed to providing whatever support is necessary for the Haitian people.


MR. CROWLEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: Charlie Wolfson with CBS. I want to follow on that in a general sense, because everyone has seen the pictures of some looting, some people running around the streets with machetes, giving a sense of some disruption in the security situation, so that if the UN is playing that role, it’s obviously not totally effective everywhere there. I’m not sure it ever was, but it doesn’t seem to be now. I just want a sense of how worried you are about the security situation and how worried you are about it getting out of control.

MS. MILLS: Well, first, I would take exception to the fact that – the statement that the UN had not done an effective job in providing security and stability in Haiti. I think that is actually one of the things they’ve done quite well, and so I would like to just be transparent about both the government’s – our government’s experience of that and my own observations with respect to the role that they’ve played there with respect to security.

I have not had the opportunity to see some of the images that you’re speaking of. I’m confident that those images, likely are going to always exist in moments like this. I think what the key goal is, is whether or not we have large-scale calm and order. And I do believe that is something that the UN team there is providing, and we are committed to providing them with whatever support is necessary to ensure they can continue to play that role.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more.

QUESTION: Security aside, I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about you’re coordinating the effort. And what is the structure that you envision for this future assistance plan? Is this all going to go through UN agencies? Are they going to take the lead in deciding what’s going on, or is there going to be a parallel structure with the United States? And obviously, once you have SOUTHCOM involved, I mean, that’s a fairly big and efficient organization. How are you going to balance the civilian and non-U.S. decision-making process with that when you’ve got this machine that exists to actually go out and do stuff?

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, there are multiple points of coordination. The first and most important one is the way we coordinate with the Government of Haiti. And as you’ve seen from the events of just the recent day, that coordination happens at every level, and is deep and will continue and we’re very committed to that. And as I suggested with the example in the health sector, we’re – we want to do – we want to work in that manner.

Second is the coordination of the disaster relief effort, which includes all of the different countries and the great generosity of so many different organizations. That coordination, we anticipate, will be led by the UN. And we will work in close cooperation with them to make sure that they have the capacity and the support to do that effectively.

On the military side, as we’ve addressed, that – we work in cooperation and in support of MINUSTAH. So the UN and its capacities that have been present there that have been there for a long time and have relationships and have those leadership roles, we intend to slot into those, under those roles, and to work effectively with the UN and with the Government of Haiti.

QUESTION: And Haitian police? Since you mentioned MINUSTAH, what’s the connection with the Haitian police? There’s a new police organization, I think, that was helped – set up.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, our priority is to work under the leadership of MINUSTAH in that environment.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.


U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC