(AFP) – Haunted by previous failures in Haiti and worried about getting stuck in a deadly quagmire, the international community is reluctant to answer a United Nations call for a special intervention force, experts say.
“There is a strong case for deploying an international force to Haiti, but it could be a very risky mission,” said Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“The gangs are well-armed and there is no clear exit strategy if a mission does deploy,” he told AFP.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, relaying a request from Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, began calling in October 2022 for an international, non-UN deployment to help support police who have been overwhelmed by gangs.
Months later, in mid-July, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution urging the international community “to provide security support to the Haitian National Police,” including through “the deployment of a specialised force,” but stopped there.
But while countries like Kenya and Jamaica have said they would consider staffing such a mission, no one has stepped up to lead it.
Not the United States, with its checkered history of intervention in the country, and which has firmly said it doesn’t want to put Americans in danger. Canada too is out, though it had at one point considered taking the lead, as had Brazil.
“We continue to work with partner nations to identify a lead nation for a police-driven multinational force,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said. “It is urgently needed.”
Previous failures by the international community in Haiti hang over calls for an intervention. At the same time, Haiti’s gangs — which control up to 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince — would be formidable opponents.
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“They’re afraid of the gangs, that they would have to confront the gangs with armed force,” said Walter Dorn, a professor of defense studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College.
Another fear: casualties among intervention forces, and collateral damage.
“Urban warfare is very difficult,” Dorn added. “And the danger of killing innocent civilians would be great.”
“However, I think that it’s possible” an international force could prevail against the gangs, Dorn said, estimating it would take at least 7,000 soldiers and as many police officers — roughly the same amount of people deployed in the UN’s last peacekeeping force in Haiti, from 2004 to 2017.
William O’Neil, an independent UN expert on Haiti, estimated 1,000-2,000 people would be needed — numbers Guterres said “do not reflect any exaggeration.”