January 17th, 2010
11:06 AM ET
13 years ago

U.S. commander in Haiti: We'll be here as long as needed


Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said Sunday that the United States is committed to helping Haiti after a massive earthquake. (Photo Credit: CNN)

(CNN) – The United States intends to help Haiti as long as the impoverished Caribbean nation needs assistance in the wake of last week’s earthquake, the top U.S. military and civilian officials overseeing the relief effort said Sunday

“We’re going to be here as long as we are needed,” Army Lt. Gen. P. K. Keen said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union when asked how long U.S. military assets would be in Haiti.

Related video: Keen and Shah explain U.S. relief efforts in Haiti

Keen told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that there are already roughly 1,000 American military personnel on the ground Haiti with another approximately 3,600 providing support from a U.S. aircraft carrier and other naval vessels offshore. In the coming days, Keen is expecting more American service members to join the relief effort, including U.S. Marines who will be tasked with clearing roads.

“We’re building up capacity every day and getting what we need to accomplish the mission,” Keen also told King.

Keen said Sunday that the military is also focused on providing security in the quake-ravaged country whose own government and security forces were severely impaired by the 7.0 magnitude quake.

“Security is an essential component of being able to accomplish our humanitarian assistance mission,” Keen told King. “So we are doing everything we can,” Keen also said, adding that the U.S. military was working alongside the United Nations to provide order.

“Security is a concern. We’re paying very close attention to it,” said Keen.

Keen’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Shah, the top U.S. civilian official in charge of the Haitian relief effort, said the Obama administration has made a long-term commitment.

“The president when he noted that we’re making a $100 million commitment – when he made that commitment – also noted that we will do whatever it takes to mount an aggressive response and to serve the people of Haiti effectively and so that’s what we’re doing,” Shah said Sunday on State of the Union.

“Our goal and our metric of success is to really do more every single day and exponentially more in terms of the delivery of services, the delivery of commodities,” Shah also told King.

Asked about a bottleneck at the Port-au-Prince airport that has made it difficult for some relief agencies to get all of the supplies they need, Keen said the U.S. military has been working hard to keep the airport operational and use the airport to meet as many of Haiti’s competing needs as possible.

The American military arrived on the scene within 24 hours of the quake and opened the airport for round-the-clock operation “almost immediately,” Keen told King.

“So, we are putting a through-put here at maximum capacity 24 hours a day,” the lieutenant general said. “It’s a matter of balance between getting relief supplies on the ground, getting the people on the ground that are necessary to get those relief supplies distributed and getting the logistical capability on the ground to continue that and the vehicles so that we can get [relief] out by ground as well as by air.”

Filed under: Haiti • Obama administration • State of the Union
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Vietnam Combat Veteran, Ohio

    To me, all the help in the world does no good unless you have someone with some brains, get the aid to those people. You say you have no way to communicate with the Haitians? How about dropping leaflets, like we did in Vietnam?

    January 17, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  2. W l Jones

    Let the world see once the relief people get road cleared and ours businessmen role up there sleeve and tranform the Haitian inforstructure and economy the people will be thankful for us for years to come. Also for the people here in the good old USA give them time they will tranform our economy all at the same time. Bless.

    January 17, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. Susan

    It's good to see the U.S. focused on a cause other than war. The world will think more positively of us when we do good works and humanitarian assistance for the people of Haiti is "good works". Having been to Haiti on several occasions, it is hard to think that the people of that country could & should have to endure even harsher conditions. I sincerely hope that we can help to lift them out of this difficult situation.

    January 17, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. Coger

    We'll be there as long as needed. Hopefully, for everyone, that time will be short. But unfortunately for Haitians, and Americans, if the past (Haiti's) is any precursor of things to come, it looks like we'll be there for good.

    January 17, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. ICARE - countdown to 2011

    Well, May God Shower His Blessings, Love and Forgiveness toward America.

    We are the only Hope the world has, may our Light Shine Forever....May we elect the BEST and BRIGHTEST leaders to see US through...

    January 17, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. ICARE - countdown to 2011

    To Coger

    Yeah, looks like Haiti will be the 52nd State.... which it should be, it's so closed to us...

    I think Puerto Rican is part of America, but they just cant vote...

    January 17, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. Just Another Old Vet

    We have enviable ability to deploy our military in great numbers anywhere in the world in under 36 hours. That includes not only boots on the ground, but also heavy equipment and the necessary logistics to support anything we elect to do. This then begs a question of why almost a week into this disaster do we only have a thousand or so personnel on the ground. Our military brings with itself the organizational structure to move and communicate over great distance, provide for its own internal security and with enough heavy equipment needed to transport the relief aid, clear the roads and establish medical facilities. Lets face it, when the chips were down in New Orleans, who got the call?

    So the question is who is holding back the support the people of Haiti desperately need?

    January 17, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. Martina

    The US bears a grim responsibility on the situation in Haiti (before the quake, of course). From Aristide to the creole pigs affair, who in the US cared about Haiti's dire situation 10 days ago? Who cared about the thousands of children dying there every day for decades just a few hundreds miles from the US? Who cared about the millions of Haitians before the quake? Fortunately, Haitians are intelligent people. They were the first colony of the French Empire to gain independence in 1804, and they won't let any trojan horse take away from them their independence and freedom, especially if it comes clad in the holy starred and spangled banner.

    January 17, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. itstoolate

    There are service men and women on all US military bases that are trained and should be deployed to Haiti. Many of these soliders have not been deployed to a war zone for one reason or another, but could be a great help in this type of horrible situation. It beats the heck out of being used as a military janitor.

    January 17, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |