MODERATOR: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Media Hub of the Americas in Miami, Florida. I would like to welcome our participants who have dialed in from the United States and across the world. This is an on-the-record press briefing with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti, Barbara Feinstein. Deputy Assistant Secretary Feinstein will discuss the United States Government’s commitment to support the success of a multinational force in Haiti.
As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record. And with that, I will turn it over to Deputy Assistant Secretary Feinstein.
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, and I want to begin by thanking you all for joining us today to discuss the evolving security situation in Haiti. To begin, I would like to echo the Secretary – Secretary Blinken’s recent statement commending the Kenyan Government’s July 29th announcement to positively consider serving as the lead nation in a multinational force to support the Haitian National Police’s efforts to improve security in Haiti.
Each day we witness additional atrocities committed by gangs in Haiti. These include indiscriminate attacks on women and children, including sexual and gender-based violence, widespread kidnappings, extortion, and other means of harassment which threaten food security, the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and basic livelihoods. The United States continues to pursue a comprehensive approach in Haiti, including support for security, specifically assistance to strengthen, train, and equip the Haitian National Police as well as humanitarian, economic, and health assistance to improve livelihoods and safeguard critical gains. We support inclusive political dialogue and Haitian-led efforts assisted by such actors as the CARICOM Eminent Persons Group to urgently enlarge political consensus and establish a roadmap to elections.
With regard to the police, let me underscore that the United States sees the Haitian National Police, and police more broadly, as leading efforts to improve security in Haiti, including through a multinational force. Our assistance to the Haitian National Police – more than $120
million in the last two years – has increased the HNP’s institutional capacity to stem gang violence in greater Port-au-Prince, including by equipping vetted specialized officers to undertake complex anti-gang operations, to work with community policing units in vulnerable neighborhoods, and to provide experts to advise HNP leadership. While the U.S. and other donors work to increase the number and – numbers and capability of the HNP, additional international support is both urgent and critical.
Kenya’s announcement that it is positively considering leadership of a multinational force, as well as its pledge of 1,000 police officers to serve in this force, will jumpstart the process of improving security in Haiti by sending thousands of additional personnel to secure critical infrastructure sites and thereby allow the Haitian National Police to increase their focus on battling gangs.
The next steps for the Kenyan Government are to perform an assessment on the ground in Haiti, which we expect to take place in the coming weeks, to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders on the ground in Haiti and in New York at the United Nations. Provided the Kenyans are able to secure approval from their own government, they would then work with the United Nations to secure UN authorization of such a force. The United States is prepared to introduce a resolution authorizing an MNF, and we look forward to working with our partners on the Security Council to secure its swift passage. I should also note that by August 15th, the United Nations is to produce a report on security options for Haiti, which will no doubt also influence the shape of such a force.
These are of course important steps, and we encourage other members of the international community to contribute funding, equipment, and personnel. In short, we are encouraged by this development on – to improve Haiti’s security situation, and we look forward to engaging with the Haitian people, key Haitian stakeholders, our Haitian diaspora, and Congress here in the United States and international partners in this effort.
Thank you very much and I’m happy to take your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Deputy Assistant Secretary Feinstein. Our first question we received from Radio Vision 2000 in Haiti, Darbouze Figaro: “In recent days, we have witnessed significant progress in the establishment of this multinational force. Does the United States not fear possible blockage in the Security Council at the next meeting?”
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you for that question. This is an issue that we continue to engage with partners, both members of the UN Security Council as well as countries around the world – in Haiti as well – to engage with partners on the Security Council to ensure successful passage of the resolution. I would note that in the recent unanimous renewal of the authorization to extend the mandate of the UN mission on the ground in Haiti, BINUH, we saw unanimous support for language which did endorse the idea of a multinational force and called for, as I mentioned in my remarks, a report to lay out options – a range of options – to improve security in Haiti.
So at this point I would say we are optimistic about the chances of passage, but it is something that we will continue to work hard with our partners to support.
MODERATOR: Thank you, DAS Feinstein. We had another question from JDS that was just submitted in our question and answer in French: “What would American assistance to this multinational force consist of? Would it be troops, materials, arms, munitions, or will it be financial assistance?”
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you. We continue to discuss what our support for a multinational force will look like within the U.S. Government across multiple agencies. What I can say at this point, which is of course pending the Kenyans’ assessment as the lead nation should they choose to take on that role, they will need to identify what the needs and the shape and character of this force will be, obviously in consultation with the United Nations as authorized through a resolution. And so once we have those details, I think we will be in a better position to provide information about what the U.S. contribution will be. I can say, however, we plan to robustly support such an initiative, as we have made clear to our partners.
MODERATOR: We also had a question from Karen Veras from Diario Libre in the Dominican Republic: “When will the assistance be arriving – the U.S. military assistance be arriving in Haiti?”
MS FEINSTEIN: So I think the question is perhaps better stated as when will the multinational force deploy to Haiti, with assistance, obviously, from the United States and other contributing nations. And again, I don’t want to get ahead of the Kenyan Government, which is the lead for such a force. What I can state is that the next step in their process will be to undertake an assessment on the ground in Port-au-Prince. We understand that that could happen as soon as in the next few weeks. They will additionally be consulting in New York with partners at the United Nations, and of course consulting, most importantly, within their own government to gain that approval.
Simultaneous to this process, as I mentioned, we do expect to see a report from the United Nations Security Council outlining options for security assistance that will influence the character and the shape of such a force. We also will need to see a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to authorize the force.
So from our perspective as the United States, we will be doing everything that we can to support that process and ensure swift passage of that resolution and all necessary steps in support of the lead nation to ensure that this activity takes place as quickly as possible in service of the Haitian people.
MODERATOR: Thank you, DAS Feinstein. The next question we received from Jose Etienne, Eyewitness News, Nassau, Bahamas. I will invite him to answer the – ask the question live. Can you please unmute yourself? Can you try now?
QUESTION: Yes, I – can you guys hear me?
MODERATOR: We can hear you.
QUESTION: Yeah, so I’m Jose Etienne, reporter – broadcast reporter with Eyewitness News from Nassau, Bahamas. We just learned yesterday – I think it was two days ago – the foreign affairs ministry would have revealed that our government would have agreed to assist Kenya and send 150 officers to assist with the multinational force. Now, I think – my question initially was how soon can we see the multinational force being deployed to Haiti now that Ms. Feinstein would reveal that the U.S. is now willing to pass a UNSC resolution, but I think she would have answered that already in the previous question. But if she could say any further information, that would be appreciated.
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you. So I wish I could give you a specific date at which we will see deployment. As I said previously, there are a number of steps that I have outlined here, and we will be looking to the Kenyans, obviously, to lead this effort should they ultimately agree to lead a multinational force, and we will be pushing as swiftly as possible to support in any way that we can.
I would like to note that we greatly appreciated that statement of support from the Bahamas with regard to their support of Kenya as a lead nation and their commitment to offer troops. We have seen similar statements from other countries in the region, either formal statements or public comments, and that includes from Trinidad and Tobago, from Jamaica, from Chile, from Canada, from the UK, the Dominican Republic, and the Organization of American States. So I think that is evidence that there is strong support for an urgent solution to Haiti’s security crisis and offers of support to that end.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question that we’d received was from Denis Chabrol in Guyana. We’ll invite you to ask your question live. Please unmute yourself.
QUESTION: Yes, good day. Do you expect CARICOM nations to provide troops to the mission? What other forms of assistance do you want from CARICOM?
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much for that question. So ultimately, again, I think Kenya as the lead nation will need to determine what its needs and capabilities are. We are encouraging nations across the world – in fact, the very name of this as a multinational force signifies that we will be looking to countries across the world to provide contributions, whether that be personnel, equipment, training, financing, or other support. There has been mentioned, for example, that in the eastern Caribbean there are certain countries that have the same or a very similar Creole to Haitian Creole. To the extent that they might be able to provide translators or interpreters is something that could also be of use.
I do want to mention that CARICOM continues to play a vital role in support of enlarging political consensus and paving a road map to elections by convening Haitian stakeholders. There was an important meeting Jamaica recently in which a wide spectrum of stakeholders
came together to discuss the political issues and work to enlarge consensus. And our understanding is that, that process continues.
So I think CARICOM has already made quite a substantial contribution to a very important part of this crisis, which is the political situation on the ground. And we would hope to see continued support from a range of nations to include CARICOM.
MODERATOR: The next question, we received from Sarah Morland with Reuters: “What concrete commitments is the U.S. making regarding a multinational force following those from Kenya and the Bahamas? What actions in the State Department – is the State Department taking to prevent more guns from being trafficked from the U.S. to gangs in Haiti?”
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you. I believe I’ve answered the first question, which is that that is a topic of active discussion within the United States. It will be informed by the Kenyans’ assessment following their trip to Port-au-Prince and further discussions in the United Nations to spell out the specific needs and capabilities. And we intend to be as supportive as possible and also look to other nations to contribute – whether that be personnel, equipment, training, financing, or other in-kind assistance.
With respect to arms trafficking, we recognize that that is a critical issue in Haiti as well as the broader Caribbean, and it is something that we are very dedicated to addressing head on. You may have seen an announcement by Vice President Harris when she was in Nassau in June – and followed a further announcement by Secretary Blinken in July – regarding the designation or creation of a new position within the Department of Justice, the first ever Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions, and the naming of a very experienced prosecutor to that end. So that is one piece of the equation.
A critical new tool that that prosecutor and others will be able to take advantage of is through the passage and enactment of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that established stiffer penalties for international weapons trafficking and in fact made that a federal crime. That in turn gives a greater possibility within the Department of Justice that we will see prosecutions of straw purchasers and provides greater accountability in addition to a much greater deterrent effect for straw purchasers and arms trafficking.
I would also add that in Haiti we are in the process of establishing a transnational criminal investigative unit within the Haitian National Police that will include vetted personnel working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and others to look at the issue of firearms trafficking – to leverage the eTrace system, for example, that can track serial numbers to their point of origin in the United States – so that these cases can be put together and prosecutions can take place.
Finally, I would also add that the United States has been a strong supporter of the Crime Gun Intelligence Unit in Trinidad and Tobago with support also from CARICOM IMPACS, and that is a regional effort to look at issues around gun trafficking since we recognize that rarely does it happen in one country. There is usually a network going across the Caribbean and elsewhere.
So to the extent we can leverage all of these tools, we think that we will be in a much more comprehensive position to address gun trafficking in Haiti and the broader Caribbean.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Just a remainder: To ask a question, please write it into the question-and-answer box. We will then call on you and ask you to unmute yourself. Our interpreters will be interpreting the questions and answers on the Spanish and French lines respectively. For those on the English line, when we call on you, please move close to the speaker microphone when asking your question live.
The next question will go to Pearl Matibe with defence – from defenceWeb in South Africa. Please unmute yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Christopher, for taking my question. DAS Feinstein, I’d like to ask you to try to clarify the context of Kenya’s participation as the lead here. When did the – I mean, they didn’t announce this just out of the blue. When did the discussion originate for Kenya to start considering leading this mission? And what gives you the confidence that Kenya has the capability to do it given that they’re already been trying to help in the DRC and President Tshisekedi already considers Kenya not capable? So what gives you the confidence that they can lead this effort in Haiti? Are there any other African countries that have been – that have put their hand up to be part of this mission? Thanks, DAS Feinstein.
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. So on that, I would note that since the Haitian government last year put forward its request for international security assistance, there has been a dedicated effort by the United Nations, by the United States and other partners to look to see which country would have the capability to lead a multinational force or to explore other options, whether that is a peacekeeping operation or other initiatives to improve security.
In that process of engaging with countries that have deep peacekeeping experience, such as Kenya – and those conversations were had not just by the United States, but also by the Government of Haiti, by other partners in the international community, the United Nations, et cetera – Kenya stepped forward and said that it did assess that it had the capability to support, provided that it received material support resources from the international community, which is something we have committed to working on to rally partners to provide that kind of support.
As for Kenya’s capabilities, as you know, they have deep experience in peacekeeping operations around the United States, and we have confidence, should they agree to take up the call, that the shape of this multinational force will be informed by deep consultation with the United Nations, with other partners – with Haitians, of course – to determine that it is supporting the Haitian National Police on the ground first and foremost. We’re also encouraged that their vision of this multinational force would be led by police. That does not mean to say that military would not be involved, but nevertheless, the police lead is something that we believe is consistent with the needs on the ground.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question will go to Emmanuel Paul with Caribbean Television Network. Please unmute yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you – thank you so much. There are some concern in Haiti regarding the prime minister who might be using the force for – to maintain power longer, and he is currently subject to criminal investigation in the assassination of Jovenel Moise. How can you make sure the multinational force will not be used to protect people in the government, but will be serving the Haitian people?
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you. We are aware of those concerns that a multinational force would be used to prop up the existing government. And what I can say on that is from the United States perspective – and this was echoed in Secretary Blinken announcement endorsing Kenya’s decision to favorably consider leadership of a multinational force – that from the U.S. perspective, we consider progress on the political situation to be of great urgency.
We continue to call on stakeholders across the spectrum to rise above their differences, to come together and urgently expand consensus so that there can be a return of democratic order in Haiti. We recognize that while security is a necessary precondition for progress towards elections security enough is – security alone is – an improvement in security will be insufficient in addressing the multidimensional crisis in Haiti. So from our perspective, focus and urgency on enlarging political consensus leading to elections is vitally important.
MODERATOR: Thank you, DAS Feinstein. The next question came from Pierre Philor from Saint Fleur AlterPresse and AlterRadio: “We know the position of Russia and China regarding this case of Haiti. In the case of an eventual vote to the UN Security Council resolution vote, what would be the next step? Do you already have an idea of the annual force that this multinational force would have?” I’m sorry – “the annual cost that this international force” —
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Again, I think those questions with regard to costs remain premature pending Kenya’s assessment when it visits Haiti and its further discussion with the United Nations and the further authorization of such a force by the United Nations. All of those factors will determine the ultimate cost. As for Russia and China and their ultimate disposition, I will not speak for other countries. But I would note that we were deeply encouraged by the unanimous passage of the reauthorization of the UN mandate under BINUH, B-I-N-U-H, in Haiti that passed in mid-July and which endorsed the concept of a multinational force, of course pending further detail and ultimate authorization by the United Nations.
MODERATOR: Thank you. The next question, we’ll invite Jacqueline Charles with The Miami Herald to ask her question live. Jackie, if you wouldn’t mind unmuting yourself.
QUESTION: Do you guys hear me?
MODERATOR: We can hear you, thanks.
QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you, Barbara, for doing this. I have two questions. The first question: There was a lot of effort in the last year that was put in trying to get Rwanda on board, and we saw the recent CARICOM meeting where President Kagame came out and said that the Rwandans wanted to assist. And so the question is: Why is it that we’re seeing that it’s Kenya taking the lead and not Rwanda?
And my second question speaks to the political process. You talk about a consensus, and what I’m wondering about is in terms of what does the United States consider a broad enough consensus. If there is a political agreement in Haiti that does not, for example, include the Montana Accord, would the – but other political parties, would the U.S. and international community consider that to be broad enough to move forward in terms of a political accord?
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you for that question. So with regard to Rwanda, I of course can’t speak for any other nation’s intent in terms of leading or contributing. I will say that in this instance, Kenya raised its hand and said that it was willing to positively consider leadership of a multinational force, so we look forward to working with Kenya and under their leadership to also see what other countries around the world are willing to contribute, whether from our own hemisphere, here in the Western Hemisphere, from Africa, or elsewhere. Those that have the capabilities to match the needs that Kenya will identify in its upcoming assessment will be prioritized, and we in the United States and partners in the international community will be poised to support them.
With regard to the political process in Haiti, we do not believe it’s for the United States to decide what a political consensus ultimately looks like in Haiti. That is a decision for the Haitians. And so to that end, we’ve been very supportive of Haitian-led efforts supported by actors such as the Eminent Persons Group from CARICOM, former prime ministers of Jamaica, the Bahamas, and St. Lucia, to try to facilitate greater political dialogue, to reach consensus, a broader consensus paving the way for elections when security conditions permit.
MODERATOR: Thank you, DAS Feinstein. We have time for two more questions. So the first one we received in advance from Sandra Lemaire of Voice of America Creole Service: “The Haitian National Police force has been accused of rights abuses, threats against journalists, and corruption. Does the U.S. have any plans to address this? And if so, can you give us details?”
MS FEINSTEIN: What I can say is that our support for the Haitian National Police is to strengthen the force, to better professionalize the Haitian National Police, to increase its capability to go after gangs and restore security, law and order in Haiti. Of course, with regard to any assistance that we provide to Haitian National Police, we ensure that that support is done through vetted means – that individuals, for example, in the units that we train are fully vetted – and where we see any issues or concerns, including rights violations, then steps are taken to ensure that assistance is no longer provided to those individuals.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our last question will go to Travis Cartwright-Carroll, an editor at The Nassau Guardian (inaudible). Travis, I’ll invite you to ask your question live. Please unmute
yourself. Mr. Cartwright-Carroll, are you able to hear us? You’re unmuted. Please feel free to speak.
It appears we’re having some technical difficulty, so I will read his question live from the question-and-answer box. “What other initiatives, inclusive of a multinational force to help Haiti security forces, is needed to help stem the crisis in Haiti?”
MS FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much for that question. So in addition to addressing security, which is the necessary precondition for progress on a number of fronts, both in terms of the political process and the ability to hold elections as well as day-to-day life, economic activity, commerce, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, there also needs to be added urgency on political dialogue so that coming out of this crisis, this security crisis, there can be a more sustainable foundation upon which Haiti can prosper and function, including to grow its economy, to serve its people, and restore democratic order.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Feinstein. That concludes today’s briefing, and we also wanted to thank all of the journalists on the line for participating. If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Miami Media Hub at MiamiHub@state.gov. An English recording and transcript will be available for this briefing. Thank you and have a good day.
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