U.S. troops to help oversee Haiti ports, roads in earthquake relief

This gallery collects all of our photos of the crisis in Haiti, starting with the most recent images and going back to the first photos that emerged after an earthquake hit the impoverished nation Jan. 12.
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 22, 2010; 5:15 PM

The United States on Friday secured formal approval for the U.S. military to help oversee all Haitian air and sea ports, and to help secure Haitian roads in support of international relief efforts, according to an agreement signed in Haiti by the United States and the United Nations.

The pact gives Haitian authorities and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti primary responsibility for maintaining law and order in the earthquake-ravaged country. But it grants the United States broad scope to intervene in civil disturbances, subject to a request by Haitian authorities.

The agreement says American authorities will establish a U.S. Joint Task Force Haiti to support the international humanitarian response. The task force will have responsibility for ensuring a functioning transportation system in Haiti and ensuring access to the country's air and sea ports and roads.

Friday's pact simply formalizes powers that the U.S. military has already been exercising in Haiti. It is also intended to clarify the division of powers among three separate forces: the Haitian police, the U.N. peacekeeping mission and the U.S. military.

The agreement states that the U.S. military will remain under the "autonomous" American chain of command but that U.S. authorities will "take into account and, as appropriate, fully support priority humanitarian and logistical requirements identified by the United Nations in their response activities."

The pact, which was not signed by Haitian leadership, says Haiti welcomes U.S. efforts "to support the immediate recovery, stability and long-term rebuilding of Haiti." It also states that the United States is "prepared to assist as needed in augmenting security in support of the government and people of Haiti and the United Nations, international partners and organizations on the ground."

U.S. officials said the absence of Haiti's signature on the security agreement does not mean that Haitians are being excluded from the decision-making. They said they have already spelled out the terms of the U.S. military presence in a Jan. 17 communique with the Haitian government and that they needed to establish a clear division of labor with the growing U.N. peacekeeping force.

"This agreement formalizes the working relationship between the United States and the United Nations on the ground in Haiti and ensures that this cooperation will continue in the challenging days and weeks ahead," said Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to United Nations.

The pact spells out broad responsibilities for the United Nations, including a role in "ensuring a secure and stable environment" in Haiti and assisting Haiti in the restoration of the "rule of law, public safety and public order." It also spells out a role for U.N. mission in "protecting civilians under imminent threat of physical violence within its capabilities and areas of deployment."

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