USA-Haiti-Cooperation: New pledges from the US administration to support security and democracy in Haiti

Emmanuel Paul
Emmanuel Paul - Journalist/ Storyteller

Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols made new pledges on the U.S. contribution to the deployment of the MSS at a roundtable on Haiti on Friday, April 26, 2024 attended by Caribbean Television Network.

According to the American official, the majority of the American contribution will be in kind. He announced that equipment, logistical and technical assistance would be granted to the mission.

“The United States is supporting the construction of the MSS base, which we call the survival zone. This is being done through contracted personnel, but it’s something that the Department of Defense is leading with its resources,” said Brian Nichols, pointing out that “the U.S. has already contributed $6 million in cash to the MSS trust fund managed by the UN in Haiti.

“The reason we haven’t given more is that most of our activities in support of the MSS are carried out directly. So we contract directly for the construction of the base and we supply equipment directly for the MSS. We’ve worked hard to assemble essential equipment for MSS members. We’re working on radios, ammunition, vehicles – all these things we’ll be doing directly rather than contributing to the trust fund, given that we expect many other countries to contribute to the trust fund as well,” he said.

The American diplomat also provided new information on the annual cost of the MSS, which “should therefore be between 500 and 600 million dollars a year”.

However, he said, the initial set-up of the mission is more costly, so there is an increase in costs at the outset. That’s why the U.S. is providing this large sum of money at the beginning, so that the operation can get underway, and then it’s no longer a question of building new things, but paying for the maintenance of the force in place,” revealed Brian Nichols, who expressed the hope that “the cost will come down and be shared with other members of the international community.”
The United States has already contributed $6 million in cash to the basket fund managed by the United Nations.
In total, the United States will contribute $300 million to the multinational security mission. Of this $300 million, $200 million will come from the Department of Defense and $100 million from the State Department.

Brian Nichols said he hoped other countries would start contributing as soon as possible, noting that other countries had pledged around $120 million for the deployment of the Mss.

Asked when the first contingents were likely to arrive, Ambassador Nichols stopped short of saying that the mission should be deployed as soon as possible, without giving a precise date.

He also recalled that, following the installation of the members of the Transitional Presidential Council, Kenyan President William Ruto had expressed his readiness to activate the deployment of the mission.

Similarly, he refrained from commenting in detail on the possibility of the United States sending American troops to assist Kenyan troops and those of other countries.

Regarding the two US military aircraft that landed in Haiti this week, he said that one was carrying $100 million worth of humanitarian aid, while the other was carrying equipment and “non-lethal weapons” for the Haitian National Police.

“The planes were not carrying military personnel to Haiti. One of the planes contained non-lethal equipment for the Haitian National Police – protective gear, spare parts and so on. The other plane contained, I believe, $100 million worth of humanitarian aid”, Brian Nichols explains. “But it was humanitarian aid transported by a contracted aircraft on behalf of a partner non-governmental organization in Haiti. It was food and medical supplies for the entire Haitian population”, he added.

The American diplomat also welcomed the installation of the members of the Transitional Presidential Council on Thursday April 25, 2024. This is a step in the right direction towards resolving the Haitian crisis, which has lasted too long,” said Mr. Nichols, pledging his country’s support for the success of this transition.

This text is a translation of an original article written in French.

Please note that this translation may not be as accurate as the original text.

For a more precise version, the full text of the roundtable is provided in the attachment below.




FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2024, 9:30 A.M. EDT


MODERATOR:  Well, good morning, everyone.  I’d like to welcome you to the Foreign Press Center – Washington Foreign Press Center.  My name is Leah Knobel and I’m the moderator for today’s roundtable.  This discussion is on the record, and a transcript will be sent to you later today.

Today, we are honored to welcome Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  The assistant secretary will brief on the crisis in Haiti and the U.S. Government’s long-term efforts to support stability and democracy in the country.  After remarks, we’ll open it up for questions.  Over to you, Ambassador Nichols.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Thank you, Leah, and good morning to you all.  It’s wonderful to be with you this morning.  This was an important morning to wake up.  Yesterday, we saw the installation of the Transitional Presidential Council in Haiti.  This is a step that reflects the culmination of really years of negotiations among key Haitian stakeholders and months of very active engagement led by the Caribbean community, with the support of many in the international community, including the United States, to help over 40 Haitian stakeholders reach agreement around this group that will represent broad-based governance with the duties of focusing Haiti on reaching elections as soon as possible and improving the security situation which remains a critical challenge in Haiti.  These challenges since President Moïse’s tragic assassination in 2021 have meant that the Haitian people have suffered unduly, and we are committed to supporting them in every way we can.

President Biden, Secretary Blinken, other senior U.S. Government officials have been actively engaged in Haiti for years, working to support this process.  As many of you will recall, Secretary Blinken hosted a G20 donors meeting in Rio de Janeiro on the margins of the G20.  He has met with former Prime Minister Henry on multiple occasions.  He’s engaged with partners around the world to build support for the assistance that Haiti urgently needs.

Extreme insecurity continues to affect Haiti.  Gang control of key transportation roots and economic activity has increased the suffering of Haitian communities and paralyzed daily life especially around the capital.  More than 380,000 people have been displaced in the country, particularly from Port-au-Prince, as I said.  We are supporting the Haitian National Police and the Haitian-requested, UN Security Council-authorized Multinational Security Support mission in Haiti.  The United States has pledged to provide some $300 million in assistance to the MSS, including $100 million from the State Department and $200 million from the Department of Defense for in-kind support.  We are also exercising presidential drawdown authority to provide equipment to both the MSS as well as the Haitian National Police.

We very much commend Kenya for its leadership of the MSS as well as the other nations that have offered to contribute to this mission, notably from the CARICOM region.  Jamaica, Bahamas; a number of other countries have also expressed their willingness from within the Caribbean but around the world.  We note that countries as far as way as Benin or the request that’s currently pending in Argentina to contribute.  So we think this is a mission that will enjoy robust international support and provide much-needed assistance to the Haitian people.

Beyond our work on security, we continue to focus on the dire humanitarian crisis that Haiti faces.  The U.S. Government announced additional $58 million in humanitarian assistance for Haiti in March – just last month – and that’s on top of the more than $700 million in development, economic, health, security, and humanitarian assistance that we’ve provided in Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023.

The U.S. Government, the Biden administration, strongly supports the Haiti HOPE-HELP program, which provides incentives for companies that invest in Haiti, and we believe that it’s vital to renew this program to give the – the signal to investors and producers with whom they do business that this program will remain in place so – that they should have no doubt about the continued operation of the Haiti HELP program.

The – just finally, I’ll note that in addition to the – yesterday’s installation of the TPC, we saw the operation of the airport in Port-au-Prince again yesterday with the arrival of planes that brought much-needed humanitarian assistance for Haiti as well as nonlethal security assistance for the Haitian National Police, and we expect to see – expect to see the airport continue to operate in the coming days and weeks ahead.

The future for Haiti, the key moment that Haiti faces will not be easy, but we are committed to working shoulder to shoulder with the new Transitional Presidential Council, key Haitian stakeholders, and the international community to give the Haitian people a better future and brighter prospects in the days, weeks, and years to come.  Thank you very much, and I look forward to a conversation and to – and hearing any questions that you might have.

MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you for those remarks.  We’re going to start by taking questions around the room.  We’re going to allow everyone to ask one question, and then come back to those who have additional questions, time permitting.  So please introduce yourself and your outlet before asking your question as well.

We’ll start with you, Fernanda.

QUESTION:  Fernanda – Fernanda Perrin from Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazilian newspaper.  Brazilian authorities say the country would be willing to contribute by just putting Caribbean police forces from the region to Haiti, but as long as the U.S. would pay for it.  So my question is the U.S. is willing to pay for this operation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Well, first, it’s great to see you twice in one week.  And Brazil has an incredibly important history of support for Haiti and its people.  Brazil led MINUSTAH effort in Haiti, and deeply grateful for their continued interest and continued commitment to support the Haitian people.  The efforts to aid the Multinational Security Support mission are crucial.  And we would hope that Brazil would be able to find within its own resources the ability to provide transportation for Caribbean contributors, as well as to look creatively within its own resources or perhaps equipment or financial funding for the MSS and other projects in Haiti, given the tremendous global reach that Brazil has.

MODERATOR:  Okay, Benjamin, are you ready to ask a question?


MODERATOR:  Okay.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Benjamin Alvarez from Deutsche Welle, DW, German TV.  I would like to get your opinion on fears that many Latin American countries have that this could turn into major migration crisis.  Can you tell us what your conversations with your Latin American counterpart look like and if they also pledged to support the new government in Haiti?  You mentioned Jamaica, Bahamas.  Can you tell us how other conversations went?  Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So there is very broad support for the transition process in Haiti and the efforts to return Haiti to democratic governance.  We’ve seen over the course of the past year resolutions in support of this effort in the UN Security Council and in the Organization of American States.  The – countries around the hemisphere have talked about the vital importance of providing stability and democracy for Haiti.  We’ve had conversations with – from Canada to Chile and Argentina, and every country in between, I think, has expressed their concern and support.

Even just a couple of weeks ago, I met with the vice foreign minister of Cuba as part of our migration talks.  We discussed the situation in Haiti as well.  The Secretary of State will participate in a Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection ministerial meeting with counterparts from some 20 countries around the hemisphere in Guatemala City.  And that effort will address the regional challenges that we face with regard to migration.

The potential for a mass migration event in Haiti cannot be discounted, but we are not seeing signs of that at this moment.  We’re not seeing signs of shipbuilding on the beaches or enhanced migratory flows out of Haiti.  Obviously with the airport in Port-au-Prince closed to commercial traffic, the Cap-Haitien has been the only air route in and out of Haiti for most people.  So that has limited movement with – into and out of the country.

We’re going to do all that we can to stabilize the situation there and to provide, as I said, Haitians with the prospects for a better future and its economic opportunities and security so that people can live in a dignified manner.  The United States will continue to enforce its migration laws robustly.  But we also have methods for those Haitians who wish to migrate legally to do so through the CVNH* portal program that I think you’re familiar with, as well as other ways to do so.  But the important thing is to give Haitians the opportunity to live safely and successfully within their own country.

MODERATOR:  Fraser (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Hi.  Fraser Jackson from France 24.  Thank you for doing this, first of all.  I just wanted to ask about the status of the multinational task force being led by Kenya.  It’s obviously faced legal hurdles in the country, and it’s unpopular with some of its – of the people in Kenya as well.  Is the U.S. still confident that it’s going to go ahead?  And can you also just, like, kind of flesh out the role that it will play alongside the traditional council?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So the Government of Kenya has reiterated its commitment to lead this effort.  I saw that President Ruto has welcomed the installation of the Transitional Presidential Council – that’s an important step – yesterday.  So we remain confident in Kenyan leadership of this effort.  The role of the MSS will be to support the Haitian National Police and improving the security situation at key points around Haiti, particularly in Port-au-Prince.  The MSS, I just want to stress, is not going to be carrying out operations independently from the Haitian National Police but will be integrated with the police and provide with the capacity to better address threats from heavily armed criminal gangs in the country.

I would note that under tremendous pressure from gangs, the Haitian National Police have performed incredibly well over the course of the last month.  The fact that they’ve been able to secure the airport, that they secured the National Palace for the installation of the Transitional Presidential Council, that despite efforts to topple the government there they’ve repulsed gangs in countless operations; they have conducted themselves with bravery and honor, and we expect that the MSS, led by Kenya but also with participation from many other nations, will give them both the reinforcements as well as the additional training and logistical capacity to further extend the security envelope around key installations and allow the Haitian National Police to grow and assume greater responsibility for security in Haiti.

That will just all facilitate a path towards elections as soon as those can be organized.

MODERATOR:  Manny, do you have a question?  (Inaudible) mike coming to you.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Emmanuel Paul from the Caribbean Television Network.  We know the U.S. has a lot of experience (inaudible) military in Haiti.  Is there any plan to send some military alongside the Kenyan police officers, or the U.S. would not send any military at all in Haiti?  And regarding the funding, can you give us some more detail?  Are those fund already sent to the UN basket fund already, or when those fund will be available, the fund you mentioned before?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So the United States is supporting the construction of the base for the MSS, or we refer to as the life support area.  That’s done through contracted personnel, but it’s something that the Department of Defense is leading on with their resourcing.  The United States has contributed in cash $6 million to the MSS UN Haiti trust fund.  The reason that we have not given more is that most of our activities to support the MSS are done directly.  So we’re directly contracting the construction of the base, we’re directly providing equipment for the MSS.  We’ve worked to gather the crucial equipment for MSS members.  We’re working on radios, ammunition, vehicles – all those things we’ll do directly rather than contribute to the trust fund, given that we expect many other countries to make contributions to the trust fund as well.

And just in terms of the scale and magnitude of what I understand has been pledged, there’s been about $120 million pledged by other countries to this effort, and we hope now that the TCP is installed – the Transitional Presidential Council – and we’ve seen the progress thus far that other nations will step up with even more robust contributions to that effort.

The situation in Haiti is as important in international crisis as any other challenge that the international community faces today.  So the countries around the world need to make robust contributions to that effort, and we continue to engage our partners around the world to urge them to be generous to address this challenge.  I’ll stop there.

QUESTION:  Guillaume Naudin, RFI.  Thanks for doing this.  I have two questions about the opening of the airport and the planes that landed here in the past days.  Are there American soldiers in these planes to secure the airport, secure the embassy?  How many would there be?  And are the plans that American soldiers come in the next days?  Please.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So the planes that were there were not bringing military personnel to Haiti.  One of the planes contained nonlethal equipment for the Haitian National Police – protective equipment, spare parts, things like that.  The other plane contained I think $100 million of humanitarian assistance – I need to check – (inaudible) check that number, because I want to make sure I’m giving you the correct number.  But it was humanitarian assistance transported by a contract aircraft for a nongovernmental organization partner in Haiti.  And that’s food and medical supplies for the general populace in Haiti.  And I’m going to try to find you the exact number, but I don’t have it at my fingertips at the moment.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Oh, well, the only military personnel were the pilots and crew who flew the plane.  There’s not – there’s no one who got off and stayed.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Macarena Vidal with El País.  Well, my question is maybe a bit basic, but the Haitian people are quite skeptical, with good reason, about foreign intervention –because, I mean, in the past it hasn’t really worked, it hasn’t made much difference – so what is going to be – for instance, this time, how do we know that this is going to work?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So I think there are a couple of things.  This effort is one where Haitian leadership is vital.  The MSS, unlike previous UN peacekeeping operations in Haiti, is not an independent actor and is not going to be trying to independently enforce security in Haiti.  Its role is to support the Haitian National Police and Haitian institutions in providing security in the country.  The Transitional Presidential Council is a nine-person – seven voting and two observer – group of leaders which represent the broad spectrum of Haitian political actors who have come together to try and lead the country back to full democratic governance, organizing elections and handing government over to a popularly elected president and parliament.

The international community cannot tell Haitians how to lead their lives or how to run their country.  We have to support Haitians in finding their own way forward.  Since I began in my current role in 2021, I’ve repeatedly said that we have to support Haitian-led solutions in this effort, and the mediation that CARICOM has led, as well as support from the United States and other countries in the international community, have been focused on that.  I can appreciate that there has been frustration that this process has not gone as quickly as many would have liked, but it’s one that has finally allowed Haitians from across the political spectrum to come together around a consensus way forward.  There is much work to be done, but I am very optimistic that the Haitian people will find that way forward with international support.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  Well, the gangs are still there, but let’s look at what’s happened.  After much gang resistance, there was an installation of the Transitional Presidential Council at the National Palace yesterday.  The airport is operational and key things are going in through the airport.  There is a sense that there can be hope for the future in Haiti.  There certainly will be challenging days ahead, but I think this is a vitally important moment, and we can’t only look at the dark clouds; sometimes we have to look at the silver linings and the hope for the future, and I think this is a moment where we are seeing in progress in Haiti and there is an opportunity for positive change.

The tremendous pressure that the Haitian National Police was under from gangs, with the airport closed and the ability to get reinforcements very limited, for example – they went through that and they prevailed.  In every major encounter between the Haitian National Police and gangs, the police won.  That is a tremendous accomplishment right there.  When you see Haitian leaders who many people might have argued could never agree on anything finally come together around the Transitional Presidential Council, that is a great step forward.  Imagine the entirety of the political spectrum in any of our countries coming together to agree on things.  How hard is that?  And they did it.

So this is a moment of progress, and we should not discount that.  We have much hard work to do to support the Haitian people and get back to fully democratic governance, but we have seen some very important accomplishments over the past few days.

QUESTION:  Mr. Nichols, thank you for being with us.  I would like to do this interview – this question in Spanish, because our TV Hispanic audience is awaiting this answer.

(In Spanish.)


MODERATOR:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Eduard Ribas from EFE, EFE News.  In your initial remarks, you talk about 300 million and then you talk about 600 million for the fund.  Are those different resources?  I didn’t understand what’s the difference.  And also I wanted to ask you if you have any timeline for the deployment of the mission, and how much more money is needed for this deployment.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So – okay.  The United States is contributing a total of $300 million to the mission.  The – in cash, financial resources.  Of that, $200 million comes from the Department of Defense; $100 million comes from the State Department.  The – I want to be clear.  This is complicated, so I don’t want to get too far down the rabbit hole on how this all works, but the $200 million from the Department of Defense comes from authorities that have already been notified to the U.S. Congress and are ready to go.  Of the $100 million from the State Department, $50 million of that has been notified already, because it’s from the previous year’s funding, Fiscal Year ’23.  Of that, $10 million has been released; $40 million is being held in Congress.  We have not yet notified the current Fiscal Year 2024 – $50 million – yet.

The – in addition to those funds, there’s a presidential authority to have U.S. Government agencies take equipment from the stocks on hand that they have and provide that for some purpose.  The United States Government, the State Department have notified $60 million for equipment transfers for the MSS, and that’s approved and available.  But that involves agencies looking in their warehouse and finding things that we’re looking for.  Separately, we’re also providing $10 million in presidential drawdown authority for the Haitian National Police.  The resources that we have are sufficient to deploy the initial group of MSS in Haiti, and we hope that that will happen within the next month.

QUESTION:  You’re asking other countries to put more money?  How much money do you expect for the mission?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NICHOLS:  So the overall cost of the mission we expect to be between $500- and $600 million a year.  But the setting up – the initial setup of the mission is more expensive, so there’s a bulge in cost in the beginning.  And that’s why the United States is providing this big chunk of money in the beginning, so that the operation can get running, and then after that you’re not building new things, you’re just paying for the sustainment of the force that’s there.  So we hope that the cost will go down and will be shared among others in the international community.

And when we look at the challenges that the international community is dealing with, obviously we have the conflict in Gaza, we have the situation in Ukraine, Sudan – very difficult – there are many, many other challenges that the international community faces around the world.  And we appreciate that our partner governments are dealing with many demands on their resources.  But I repeat:  The situation in Haiti is as important, as critical as any other crisis around the world today, and the international community needs to treat it that way.  And that’s why the United States has provided this large amount of money to support the MSS, on top of, as I mentioned, $700 million in assistance across all our other areas bilaterally over the last two fiscal years for Haiti, because we view the situation in Haiti as vital.

The Haitian people are facing a crisis even for Haiti that is unprecedented, and we have to respond to help them.  And it’s – this is not an obligation on the United States; it’s an obligation on the international community as a whole to do all that we can to support Haiti in this critical moment.

MODERATOR:  I’m afraid we’re out of time, so this concludes our roundtable discussion.  I want to give a special thanks to our briefer and to those of you who participated.  Thank you so much.

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