Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As Haiti's Airport Reopens, US Military Shifts Its Role

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As Haiti's Airport Reopens, US Military Shifts Its Role

Article excerpt

While there is still much work to be done, the security situation in Haiti has stabilized enough that some US forces will soon leave the country.

The airport in Port-au-Prince opened up to commercial airline traffic for the first time Friday since last month's earthquake, marking a turning point in the country's ability to begin to stand on its own.

At the same time, the US military has begun to ponder pulling many of its forces out of Haiti, with some of the first ground forces to arrive leaving very soon.

Officials with American Airlines said the first flight from Miami to Haiti arrived in Port-au-Prince at about 9:30 a.m. Friday morning. At least one other airline had planned to begin flights into the airport, which had banned all commercial air traffic following the Jan. 12 earthquake that the Haitian government says killed as many as 212,000. The Haitian government has begun to oversee daily airport operations once again.

Military officials say that while there is still much work to be done in Haiti, their role is beginning to diminish. Looting has decreased, along with criminal and gang activity, and the security situation in Port-au-Prince has stabilized enough that the military can begin to leave. Water and fuel supplies are also back to their "pre-quake" levels, says one senior military official.

The bulk of US forces will likely be gone in the next few months.

"We think the security situation will allow us to slowly withdraw some forces," said the official, who would speak only on background.

Lead elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, which had deployed in the days following the earthquake, will begin to leave soon, according to the official. Military officials say other forces, including the hospital ship USNS Comfort, will likely stay longer. The ship has a couple dozen patients who require critical care, and those patients will gradually be transferred to facilities ashore. …

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