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U.S. Military Role In Haiti Met With Mixed Emotions

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U.S. Military Role In Haiti Met With Mixed Emotions

U.S. Military Role In Haiti Met With Mixed Emotions

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

First, we'll report on the U.S. military, which sent 20,000 troops to Haiti. They've been distributing food and providing medical aid, and it's not clear how long they will be staying. NPR's Juan Forero reports from Port-au-Prince.

JUAN FORERO: Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible)

FORERO: Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: Forty men from Alpha Company provide security as sacks of rice are handed out to Haitian mothers - American-grown, long grain rice, stamped with the stars and stripes. Captain Andrew Salmo is in charge.

ANDREW SALMO: A lot of the combat veterans are like, well, I'm happy here because I'm not, you know, in as much danger. And we were ready to deploy, and we were looking forward to a combat deployment. But this has been rewarding in a lot of ways.

FORERO: The shift to Haiti means that instead of treating wounded soldiers, medic Antonio Rivera helps Haitians balance the heavy bags.

ANTONIO RIVERA: It feels great, actually.

FORERO: For the troops, it means handing out tarps and poles and ground coverings to get people ready for the rainy season, and helping with a U.N. effort to build latrines.

LEWIS LUCKE: all of these are absolutely critical for the next stages.

FORERO: Lt. Col. Ken Keen, commander of American forces here, says there are no plans to leave soon.

KEN KEEN: At the present time, there's still great need across the board, and we still remain decisively engaged, providing critical assistance to the government of Haiti.

FORERO: An analyst who closely tracks Haiti, Larry Birns, says the Obama administration needs to be mindful of that history.

LARRY BIRNS: Well, of course, there's a lot of angst on the part of Haitian intellectuals over this. I mean, they hate the idea of having the United States periodically come in. It's patronizing to Haitian history. And it's condescending attitude that after all, Haiti, unlike other countries, you can expect much less from.

FORERO: Jean Philippe Mirvil is among those intellectuals. He was rescued by American troops - pulled from the rubble after he was trapped six days.

JEAN PHILIPPE MIRVIL: (Foreign language spoken)

FORERO: Colonel Chris Gibson says the video is shot from unmanned Predator aircraft. That permits the U.S. to respond quickly if security is needed. The setup is elaborate. It's in a huge air-conditioned tent, one of many dotting a field. But Gibson says it can all be come down in an instant, if Washington deems the mission complete.

CHRIS GIBSON: Juan Forero, NPR News.

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