Marines prepare to spearhead invasion

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The Independent Online
THE US-LED Haiti invasion force continues to mass in Puerto Rico and on the sea between Haiti, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Twenty-four US ships are in the area or heading towards it. Most significantly, the amphibious command ship Mount Whitney should now be in position off Haiti.

The US fleet has over 20,000 personnel on board, of which an 1,800-strong US Marine 'special purpose air- ground task force' is the spearhead. Nearly 2,000 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division are reported to be on the aircraft carrier USS America, poised to assault Port-au- Prince. Up to 2,000 troops from the Army's 10th Mountain Division are set to sweep into the capital from the carrier Eisenhower while Marines from the helicopter assault ship Wasp are expected to hit the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

The initial invasion is likely to be more straightforward than the subsequent pacification of the country, for which the UN has estimated up to 15,000 UN troops and police will be needed. Only about 2,000 troops have so far been promised.

The UN estimates 5,000 combat troops - infantry and special forces - will be needed in the first phase, plus 6,500 support troops, including military police, intelligence, communications, engineers and medics

The UN Secretary-General also said there should be an off-shore reserve of 3,500 troops, including a US Marine unit and two infantry battalions, a group of 60 military trainers, and 550 police.

UN Security Council Resolution 940 of 31 July authorises a multinational force 'under unified command . . . to use all necessary means' to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment to allow Phase Two, the deployment of a UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH).

When the multinational force's mission is complete, control will be handed over to the UN Mission, which Resolution 940 says should be 6,000 strong.

The Secretary-General's report of 15 July, the basis of any subsequent peace-keeping operation, stressed there would be an indeterminate period after the departure of the Haitian military regime during which the Haitian authorities would need help.

The UN force will control all main points of entry, including Port-au-Prince airport and seaport, plus the main supply routes. It must also provide security for the re-established legitimate government, officials and key installations, and maintain public order, including the disarmament of paramilitary groups. The Haitian Army has set up 'volunteer militias' - believed to number 50,000 - and they will have to be disarmed after the defeat of the regular Haitian forces.

Finally, the UN force will help retrain the Haitian armed forces, establish a new, independent police force, and assist in elections.

The UN approached 50 countries, of whom over 20 have offered a total of 2,000 troops, to take part in the follow-up operation. The US, mindful of Somalia, Grenada and Panama, is likely to withdraw as soon as possible and, in accordance with evolving wisdom about UN operations, forces from the region will re- establish and maintain order.

An advanced group of 16 observers from France, Bangladesh and Fiji will be the first of the UN force into Haiti in the wake of an American attack.

A 'Short-Term Training Team' of nine British army and three RAF personnel has arrived at Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, to train the 300- strong Caribbean Command (Caricom) battalion, comprising detachments from Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, in basic infantry skills and fighting in built-up areas. Britain and the Netherlands, which have possessions in the area, have one frigate each in the vicinity and Canada has two. They are not expected to take part in the invasion. HMS Broadsword is unsuitable for any direct role as it has no gun for shore bombardment.