Photo: MINUSTAH armoured vehicles – © HSG/Joris Willems
Excerpt from Turtle Bay:
British officials maintain that their concern is not limited to costs, but to the wisdom of maintaining large foreign peacekeeping missions in countries that are no longer at war, and no longer need foreign military assistance. Haiti, for example may be economically distressed and still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake, but it is not at war and still hosts some 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers. Britain believes its time to bring the blue helmets home.
“There are worrying reports that many ordinary Haitians increasingly see MINUSTAH as an occupying force,” said Philip Parham, Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador. “We believe the continued presence of large number of troops is counter-productive and police officers, whether from UNPOL, or ideally the Haitian National Police, would be seen as a more sensitive and low-key presence on Haiti’s streets.”
The United Nations, backed by the United States, plans to reduce the size of the force in Haiti to about 8,000 troops, but will maintain a robust peacekeeping force to fill the vacuum left by a national police force that is incapable of taking full responsibility for security. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the U.S. ambassador for special political affairs at the United Nations, insisted that the peacekeepers remain with “strong rules of engagement…to deal with a stable but fragile security situation in Haiti. The United Sates believes that any determination of the future size of MINUSTAH forces must be based on security conditions on the ground.”
The United States has long had interests in the fate of Haiti, an island nation located some 700 miles southeast of the coast of Florida. The country has sent large numbers of immigrants to the United States, particularly during periods of violence and political instability. Britain, on the other hand, has few vital national security interests in Haiti.
Rice was even blunter. If the British don’t think a peacekeeping force is appropriate for Haiti, they “shouldn’t have voted to authorize it in the first place, because the nature of it hasn’t changed. The Haitian people and the Haitian government are not asking for it to leave now.”