Biden Says He Kept US Troops Out of Haiti to Avoid Misperception

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden defended his decision against sending US troops to Haiti, while saying he was confident the deployment of a multinational police force led by Kenya could break the cycle of violence that has gripped the country.

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The US president said the involvement of American military personnel on the ground would complicate the operation, suggesting that it could rankle other nations in the region already wary of US intervention.

“We concluded that for the United States to deploy forces in the hemisphere, just raises all kinds of questions that can be easily misrepresented,” Biden said Thursday at a White House press conference alongside Kenyan President William Ruto. “There’s a lot going on in this hemisphere, and we’re in a situation where we want to do all we can without us looking like America, once again, is stepping over and deciding this is what must be done.”

Biden said the US would contribute in other ways, by supplying logistics, intelligence and equipment and cast Kenya as a reliable partner to lead the mission.

“Haitians are looking for help, as well as the folks in the Caribbean are looking for help,” he said.

Questions about the multinational police force dominated Biden’s press conference, with reporters pressing both Biden and Ruto on why Kenya was taking the lead on the mission to restore order to a Caribbean country. Ruto said his decision was driven by a desire to restore security across the globe, not pressure from Washington.

“The US cannot commit Kenya. I am the president of Kenya, it’s me, to make that decision,” Ruto said. “It is us, the people of Kenya who made this decision in the interest of serving peace and stability.”

Kenya has said the police force, authorized last year by the United Nations Security Council, is ready to deploy soon. But the effort has been delayed amid a wave of deadly attacks by armed groups that has gripped the capital of Port-au-Prince, and international leaders have called on the Biden administration to do more to fund the effort and prevent the flow of weapons from US ports.

Republican lawmakers, though, have complained that Biden’s approval of a $60 million military aid package for Haiti earlier this month came without explicit congressional approval.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned in April after spiraling violence in the capital led to the temporary closure of the city’s main international airport, a prison break that released thousands of inmates, and clashes at hospitals and ports. A transitional council tasked with picking a new prime minister and eventual president was installed.

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