Monday, April 15, 2024

10 Americans Rescued from Haiti,Congressman’s Bold Rescue Mission in Haiti Exposes Biden’s Failures

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WASHINGTON — As Haiti’s capital descended deeper into lawlessness last week, with warring gangs cutting off access to food, water and medical care for millions, a newly elected Republican congressman mobilized military veterans for an extraction mission to rescue a group of Americans trapped by the violence.

Representative Cory Mills of Florida said he acted after the group of 10 aid workers requested help from the State Department to flee the chaos but received no assistance in evacuating the country. So Mr. Mills, who had led similar private rescue efforts to extract Americans from Afghanistan and Israel, stepped in last Friday night to ferry them to safety.

It marked the third time during the Biden administration that Mr. Mills, an Army combat veteran elected to Congress last year, has intervened to extricate Americans trapped in crisis zones abroad when the U.S. government would not — efforts he says expose a “disturbing reality” and “pattern of abandonment” by President Biden and his team, who he accused of jeopardizing American lives.

“This mission reiterates a disturbing reality under President Biden’s leadership: American lives are continually jeopardized,” Mr. Mills said in an interview. “I have led missions to rescue Americans multiple times when Joe Biden has deserted them. There’s a clear pattern of abandonment.”

Mr. Mills’ criticism reflects growing Republican attacks on Mr. Biden over his handling of escalating turmoil in Haiti, which the United Nations has described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Turf battles among gangs have shuttered schools, hospitals and businesses, driving a sharp uptick in violence including brazen kidnappings and near-daily shootouts.

Last week, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. personnel from Haiti, and the Pentagon said it had deployed military assets to bolster security at the embassy in Port-au-Prince on a temporary basis, a stopgap measure as the Biden administration weighs further intervention into the country’s unraveling.

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But Republicans have accused Mr. Biden of acting too slowly and lacking urgency in responding to a crisis of staggering proportions on America’s doorstep. In a letter last Wednesday, the party’s House leaders lambasted the president and his cabinet for their “unacceptable silence” as hundreds of thousands of Haitians confront famine, calling the situation “shameful.”

“Unfortunately, for President Biden, abandoning Americans abroad has become standard operating procedure,” the letter stated. Signed by top Republicans including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, it cited the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and the faith-based group still held hostage in Haiti by a powerful gang.

The renewed pressure on the Biden administration to act more decisively comes as Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned over the weekend in hopes of paving the way for a transitional government that can restore order. Caribbean leaders meeting in Jamaica pledged $133 million to help fund a multinational police force in Haiti to be helmed by forces from Kenya.

But even with a transitional government and international police presence potentially on the horizon, the outlook remains grim. Gang warfare, fueled by a flood of weapons from the United States, continued to paralyze large swaths of Port-au-Prince this week. A cholera outbreak sparked by the chaos has grown, raising alarms about a looming public health catastrophe and humanitarian disaster of epic scale.

That dire backdrop formed the basis for Mr. Mills’ evacuation operation, which he said was requested directly by the group of Americans who had traveled to Haiti to work at an orphanage that has since suspended its operations. When the State Department did not help them leave, Mr. Mills intervened with the help of Brian Young, who goes by the code name “Coyote” and runs a private rescue group. He spearheaded evacuations from Afghanistan after the 2021 U.S. withdrawal.

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On Friday evening, the team deployed to Haiti, making their way to the group’s location by navigating gang checkpoints and areas controlled by armed criminal factions. By early Saturday, the 10 Americans, who Mr. Mills said lived across several states including Michigan, Ohio and Florida, had been transported to the airport in Port-au-Prince and were on their way back to the United States.

“Our mission was a smash success, but there are still hundreds, if not thousands of Americans who need to be evacuated from Haiti, and the Biden administration seems to have no concerted plan to save them,” Mr. Mills said.

Neither the State Department nor the National Security Council immediately responded to requests for comment on the evacuation or Mr. Mills’ criticism. But the Biden administration has insisted that supporting Haiti and restoring democratic governance there is a key priority.

“The administration is focused on helping enable a democratic transition in Haiti that leads to free and fair elections, as well as improving security and supporting humanitarian organizations,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters last week. “This is of critical interest to us and to U.S. national security.”

Officials have pinned hopes on the transitional government taking shape after Mr. Henry’s resignation. His departure, and the installation of a presidential council to make way for new elections, was endorsed by the United States as well as the United Nations, which recently proposed that a foreign armed force be deployed to Haiti for an initial period of two years to help stabilize the country.

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“Obviously, we remain concerned about the security environment in Port-au-Prince and we’re going to, of course, continue to evaluate whether additional steps need to be taken,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told reporters on Monday when asked about the conditions in Haiti.

He said that the administration was also maintaining close contact with groups working in Haiti and Americans who may need to leave the country, but did not specify whether the United States would deploy additional personnel or provide transport to aid any future evacuations.

Such decisions would most likely be informed by guidance from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, which has updated its travel advisory warning against visiting Haiti “due to crime, civil unrest, kidnapping and maritime risks.”

With the suburban region where the embassy is located remaining relatively safe for now, officials may determine that there is no need for a wholesale evacuation of Americans at present. But the security situation could deteriorate rapidly at any time.

For those Americans still on the ground and braving the chaos, there remains deep frustration with the Biden administration’s response as conditions worsen by the day.

Representative Lisa McClain, Republican of Michigan, said several of her constituents were among the group evacuated last weekend by Mr. Mills. In an interview, she accused the Biden administration of abandoning American citizens in Haiti without having any plan to rescue them, forcing House Republicans to take action themselves.

“We worked around the clock to do the work the Biden administration was unwilling to do,” Ms. McClain said. “I am infuriated that the State Department has so carelessly left so many Americans to die in Haiti.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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