Monday, May 26, 2014

Chile Looks to Reduce its Forces in Haiti

Heading home?
Chile's government agreed to extend its peacekeeping force in Haiti for at least one more year, but it sent out a message that is commitment should start to wind down. President Michelle Bachelet said 2014 and 2015 should be viewed as a period of "preparation for the substantial and programmed withdrawal" of military personnel in Haiti. Already, Chile trimmed its Haiti troops to 426 from 479 the prior year. Its desire for a smaller footprint in Haiti isn't new. In 2011, Chile announced a measured withdrawal. Chile is one of 20 countries providing military personnel to the UN MINUSTAH stabilizing force, which has a total strength of nearly 8,000 soldiers and police. Chile, which has served in MINUSTAH since 2004, spends $26 million a year in personnel costs plus $15 million for operating costs for the mission. Last year, the UN reimbursed $16 million, according to El Mercurio. Haiti has been Chile's largest peacekeeping commitment, and Chilean commanders consider it an important way to gain the type of training that would not be possible in their regiments. Chile's 10-year mission has consisted mainly of support services, such as policing, escorts and medical assistance. The Air Force (FACh) operates a squadron of four UH-1H helicopters for assorted transportation needs. Chilean casualties have been minimal and none from combat. In 2013, the UN made a 20% cut in MINUSTAH forces. But as the mission evolves into nation-building, the UN has no timetable for a complete withdrawal. Still, MINUSTAH's leaders also have expressed a desire to exit the impoverished Caribbean nation.

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