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U.N. Seeks More U.S. Troops for Haiti Mission


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Facing serious shortages of specialist troops, senior U.N. military officers arriving in Haiti this week told U.S. commanders that they will need at least 1,000 more American troops than originally planned for a U.N. force that they now say will not be prepared to take over the U.S. military mission here until well into next year.

In meetings with U.S. officers in Port-au-Prince during the last two days, key officers of the future U.N. military command said that after soliciting forces from more than 80 nations, they have commitments for fewer than 60% of the 6,000 multinational troops that planners estimate will be needed to maintain stability and democracy after the United States hands over command to the United Nations.

The bottom line, according to the U.N. officers: At least 3,000 American soldiers will remain in Haiti, probably until February, 1996, under U.N. command, even if the U.S. force commanders and the bulk of the troops withdraw from the mission early next year.

Those are just some of the hard realities likely to fuel the American debate about the length of its Haitian intervention as the United Nations begins to prepare for its first joint military mission with the United States since Somalia.

Briefing reporters a day after arriving in the Haitian capital, commanders of the 60-member U.N. advance team that will eventually run the U.N. Mission in Haiti--it already has an acronym, UNMIH--said they told deputy U.S. forces commander Maj. Gen. David C. Meade that they will need the extra American forces, particularly engineering, aviation and logistics specialists.

"The Bangladeshis would love to give us another battalion of infantry troops, but our biggest problem is getting the specialized troops we need to make this mission work," said Canadian army Col. William Fulton, who heads the advance team and will serve as chief of staff, the third-ranking officer in the future U.N. multinational force.

Fulton said it is too early to predict when the United Nations will be prepared to assume command. First, he said, his team must determine that the U.S. forces have created a "safe and stable" environment in Haiti. That probably will take at least three or four more weeks, he said.

Only after Fulton's determination is approved by U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali will the United Nations begin to deploy its multinational force and the United States begin to withdraw its troops, a process he said will take at least several months.

"By early next year," he said, "we should be well on our way to being halfway through the transition."

With just 260 of those U.N. troops in Haiti so far, a combined force of soldiers from Caribbean nations, Fulton and U.N. civilian officials here said that the details of their future mission have yet to be determined.

Just who will command that force remains unclear--and a potential source of conflict between the Clinton Administration and Boutros-Ghali.

Fulton said Boutros-Ghali is insisting that a general officer from a Caribbean nation serve as commander of the entire U.N. force, including all U.S. forces in the contingent. The mission's deputy commander would be an American general who also reports directly--and only--to the secretary general, U.N. officials said.

A similar command structure caused frequent conflict in Somalia and was partly blamed by U.S. military planners for some of the failures in the bloody mission, which left 42 U.S. servicemen dead before President Clinton pulled Americans out.

"This operation will work only if the American troops here follow absolutely the chain of command and the chain leads directly back to Boutros-Ghali--not the White House," one U.N. source in Haiti said. This source stressed that U.N. peacekeeping experts in Somalia blamed the mission's failures on America's dual chain of command there.

The Pentagon is equally emphatic, however, that the U.N. force in Haiti will be commanded by an American, with a separate command channel leading back to Clinton.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said Friday that they expect that a Jamaican will be commanding the U.N. contingent and that they are satisfied with that.

Despite any potential differences over command, the arrival of Fulton and his team just two weeks into the U.S. military intervention in Haiti underscored one major lesson that U.N. officials said the United States and the United Nations learned from Somalia.

"We're increasing the level of cooperation right from the start," said Eric Falt, the U.N. mission spokesman here. "It will not be a sudden transition as it was in Somalia."

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