US State Department Briefing

PJ Crowley, Spokesman

Jan 19, 2010



PJ Crowley’s introductory statement:

I’m sure you’ve got a number of questions on Haiti. The – our broad priorities for today are to continue to bolster security for in-country transportation and the distribution of emergency supplies. And we can see with each passing day that we are expanding the distribution network in and around Port-au-Prince. We continue to flow medical equipment and supplies into the country, along with food and water and material for shelter and eventual settlement support of affected populations. We continue to look at – very closely at the supplies of fuel and the condition in terms of sanitation and hygiene within the country. At the same time, the significant U.S. and international search-and-rescue teams continue to conduct activities throughout Port-au-Prince. We’re very gratified that to date, there have been 72 individuals that have been rescued, including 40 by the U.S. teams.

And as a testament of the generosity or ongoing generosity of the American people, in terms of the fundraising effort that we helped launch on behalf of the American Red Cross, that effort where people text “Haiti” to 90999, we now have more than 2 million contributors and have raised so far $23 million.

1:41 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: And just to continue on, I’ve got several announcements before taking your questions.

The Government of Canada is hosting a preparatory conference in Montreal on January 25th. The meeting is not itself a donors conference regarding Haiti, but rather a preparatory meeting for an eventual donors conference. There’s not yet a date for the donors conference, but Secretary Clinton committed to her counterpart in Canada over the weekend that she plans to attend this meeting.

I’m sure you’ve got a number of questions on Haiti. The – our broad priorities for today are to continue to bolster security for in-country transportation and the distribution of emergency supplies. And we can see with each passing day that we are expanding the distribution network in and around Port-au-Prince. We continue to flow medical equipment and supplies into the country, along with food and water and material for shelter and eventual settlement support of affected populations. We continue to look at – very closely at the supplies of fuel and the condition in terms of sanitation and hygiene within the country. At the same time, the significant U.S. and international search-and-rescue teams continue to conduct activities throughout Port-au-Prince. We’re very gratified that to date, there have been 72 individuals that have been rescued, including 40 by the U.S. teams.

And as a testament of the generosity or ongoing generosity of the American people, in terms of the fundraising effort that we helped launch on behalf of the American Red Cross, that effort where people text “Haiti” to 90999, we now have more than 2 million contributors and have raised so far $23 million.

Q and A

QUESTION: Can you give us numbers on the number of dead and missing Americans so far?

MR. CROWLEY: Missing Americans is much more difficult, but in terms of the current number, we still have roughly 27 confirmed U.S. fatalities.

QUESTION: Roughly 27?

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) we have 27. I mean, there are some that – we have an additional number that are presumed dead, but we have – we’re still looking for specific confirmations.

QUESTION: Around 27?

MR. CROWLEY: Twenty-seven confirmed.

QUESTION: And how many are you looking – we heard 24 yesterday unconfirmed. Is that —

MR. CROWLEY: Something along those lines. I’m just – let me – I’ll see if I have this number here. I don’t see it in my book.

QUESTION: And P.J., that includes the —

QUESTION: And how —

QUESTION: Sorry, that includes the one official – U.S. fatality?

MR. CROWLEY: Actually, thank you, Arshad. We have the one U.S. Government official fatality and 27 private, and so a total of 28 so far.

QUESTION: And missing?

QUESTION: And missing?

MR. CROWLEY: Missing – I mean, we have – we still continue our efforts to try to determine the status of the roughly 45,000 American citizens. Most of them are dual citizens of the United States and Haiti. I think it’s safe to say that we have several thousand instances where people have provided information to us, and we’ve worked through a number of these cases that we were able to resolve. We have been able to evacuate 4,500 American citizens so far, so – but there are still substantial numbers of people for whom – either they have not contacted the Embassy, but we don’t have any information on their status at the present time.

QUESTION: And to follow up on adoptions, how are you doing in – serving in that? There have been large outcries from Americans who just don’t know where their child is. And what —

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this has been one of our higher priorities since the earthquake occurred. We have a task force within Consular Affairs that is working specifically on the issue of adoptions, and obviously, tragically, we now have a number of people – a number of children who may well have lost their parents and other loved ones. Through the course of the past few days, we have been able to process and provide visas to 24 children who have moved back to the United States. Overnight, there was an additional movement of 53 or 54. I’ve heard both numbers. Now, in the plane that came back, it landed, I think, this morning in Pittsburgh, there are a number of those children who will stay in the United States, and there are some children on the plane who will continue on to other countries.

So in terms of – but that gives you an idea. But we’re working very closely with the Haitian Government. Obviously, as the earthquake hit, there were a number of children that were in the process of being adopted. Some of these cases were virtually completed and that represents those whom – for whom we have completed the process, received permission from the Haitian Government, and been able to bring to the United States. There are a number of cases that are pretty close to complete and we’re working with the Haitian Government and want to see those children moved to safety as rapidly as possible.

And obviously, we are working on a daily basis, on a continual basis with the orphanages and the Haitian Government, and this is something that is very important to try to move as many of these children as possible to —

QUESTION: Will there be anything considered like a Pedro Pan like they did in Cuba in the ‘60s? Because a lot of these children are in medical need, desperate medical need.


QUESTION: Is there any consideration of doing something like that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and you heard from the Department of Homeland Security an announcement – in the last 24 hours, we’re granting humanitarian paroles so that children – and there already has been a movement of children to the United States, those that in particular are in need of medical care. So we are bending over backwards to try to protect and to – as many children as possible in Haiti and move those that we can to get medical attention or on to their adoptive parents.

QUESTION: On a related issue —

QUESTION: P.J., you said that there is —

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, all right.

QUESTION: You said that they’re – the – you said that they’re expanding distribution in Port-au-Prince. But there are continuing reports from the ground that the distribution of aid simply isn’t getting out, that there – it may be getting on the ground, but it’s not getting to people in Port-au-Prince and other areas. What is holding it up?

MR. CROWLEY: I actually don’t think that your characterization is true. If the – the issue remains the limited infrastructure that is inhibiting us from bringing more and more food, water, shelter into the country. But the assistance that is getting to the airport is flowing out to the people of Haiti. The challenge is that we are not yet at the level where we can sustain a population of 3 million people.

But we – every day, we’re making progress. Obviously, over the last 24 hours, you’ve had the arrival of the Marine amphibious group. That provides you several capabilities: one, another platform from which we can have helicopter flights into Port-au-Prince. With the Marines come manpower and vehicles, humvees so that now we can extend our reach into more sections of the city and the outlying areas. The helicopter lift is vitally important to that because we know that the population in Haiti is moving. And so we want to try to stay up with that flow. We’re looking and have been experimenting over the last couple of days at finding ways to be able to airdrop more supplies, particularly to the outlying areas, to help feed and provide water to as many people as possible.

So this is just an ongoing effort. As the Secretary said when she was in Haiti on Saturday, our objective is to make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today. And we are making that progress, but obviously we’re not at a point yet where we think we are at a sustainment level.

We are also bringing in lots of various kinds of water, collection and production and distribution capability, so that not only – we’re not relying solely on bottled water; we’re relying on ways in which we can provide substantial quantities of water to more of the population.

QUESTION: And just to be precise —


QUESTION: — who exactly makes the determination for where this aid goes? Is that USAID or is it the UN overall? Who’s doing —

MR. CROWLEY: And the Government of Haiti, working collaboratively. As the Secretary talked to President Preval on Saturday, there was a joint communiqué that was released on Sunday, but it outlined – and we have put together additional mechanisms so that there is a coordination center in – at the airport so that collectively, we can identify, early in the day, where do we think the highest priorities are; the greatest need, where they might exist.

We have established – we being the UN, the United States, the Government of Haiti – four hubs around Haiti, and then from that, a couple hundred distribution points so that you’re just trying to expand this network every day so that more and more people are receiving assistance. We’re doing it not only in terms of direct deliveries; we’re turning it – we’re doing it in terms of working through NGOs and we’re finding other ways to – such as the air drops being done on a measured scale because there are – there is a risk that comes with air drops if the area is not secure.

I think another development today is the Coast Guard and the Navy continue to work on how we might be able to utilize port facilities. We are bringing in ships that can offload supplies without benefit of a pier. So once we have that, that will significantly expand the flow of material into Haiti. We also have established an operation in the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo, and are bringing more and more supplies overland from the DR to Haiti.


QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back – you mentioned children and working to get injured children to the U.S. What about adults who are injured severely and who need transport to the U.S.? One, do they require visas? Is there any consideration being given to waiving that requirement if it is such? And we – there have been reports that severely injured adults have been refused or denied transfer to the U.S. for further medical help. Is that the case as you understand it?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we are trying as best we can to bring more and more medical capability directly to Haiti – not only helping Haiti repair the existing hospitals – there are a number of field hospitals that we’ve established not only in the United States, but the international community as well. So we are trying to increase the medical infrastructure in Haiti so we can provide, in some cases, lifesaving and important medical assistance where these people are.

On a case-by-case basis, where people have urgent medical needs that cannot be met within country, we’re looking at these on a case-by-case basis. I can’t really give you any numbers as to how many times we’ve done that, but this is something that we will continue to work as aggressively as we can.

QUESTION: And as you work on a case-by-case basis, do they require a visa? Does a Haitian severely injured require a visa to evacuate them to the US?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, obviously, it would require some sort of permission from the United States to travel, whether it was a visa, whether it would be a humanitarian parole. And working closely with DHS, we’re identifying these cases and trying, where we can, to move them as quickly as possible.


MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Bob.

QUESTION: — piggybacking your point about the air drops —

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the Secretary herself had said the other day that she wondered why, from the very beginning, they weren’t doing air drops. And she said the reason she was given was similar to the one you cited about security risks. What’s changed that makes it a more acceptable risk now that we —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, now that she – I mean, you have the MEU there with 2,000 Marines. You’ve got components of the 82nd Airborne that are still – they might be, for the most part, off shore but still available to us. As you increase your manpower and your mobility, you’re able to go out and secure the drop zone so that as you’re able to bring in this food, water, shelter, you’ve got a mechanism in place on the ground where it can be securely delivered to people.

So, I mean, your networks and your colleagues on the ground have shown those examples where food has been dropped and there’s been a crush of people, understandably so, to be able to race to get to this material. We want to make sure that we’re delivering material in a way that doesn’t cause – create further injury. And so as we’re able to increase our manpower and expand the size of the network, then more and more, this becomes a viable option.

The other aspect, though, is – the value of air drops is because in some of those outlying areas where we still might not have all the roads cleared, it allows you to be able to provide some assistance in the outlying areas where people may be gravitating towards. So it also is something that we are looking at every day as we look at what’s the current situation on the ground, what’s the current need in different parts of the city and the outlying areas, and adapting our approach as we go along.

QUESTION: Are you saying this is being done only in areas that – where it has been secured in advance?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’d probably be best to defer. You’re having a series of briefings and most of the operational information now is moving from here, and rightfully so, right down to Port-au-Prince. So in terms of specifically how it’s being done, I’ll defer to my colleagues on the ground in Port-au-Prince. But that remains something that we are looking at, and we continue to develop those operations as we think they make sense.

QUESTION: What did the State Department have to do to get those Haitian orphans on the flight last night – the Governor Rendell flight? Did they have all the paperwork they needed before they left Haiti?

MR. CROWLEY: In some cases, these were cases that were virtually complete. In other cases, working with the governor and his staff and the task force, not only here but on the ground in Port-au-Prince, we were able to process additional paperwork last night to be able to make that – the size of the group ending up at 53 or 54.

QUESTION: But they all had – did they have the visas and passports or just visas? What did they have to get?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, it might depend, because on that flight last night, you had people whose ultimate destination, children whose ultimate destiny was the United States, and you had others who came to the United States this morning but now are moving on to other countries. So the paperwork would vary depending on whether they’re an adoptive child, whether they’re an orphan, or whether they continuing on to a third country. But in all cases, we obviously need to be able to provide them the appropriate documents so that they are able to enter the United States.

QUESTION: And they had all that before leaving Haiti?

MR. CROWLEY: They had all that before leaving, but they did not – but that – thanks to our good work of the task force, we were able – in some cases, some of these children were ready to go, and in many cases they weren’t, but we worked that through the day yesterday so that we could put as many children on that flight last night as possible.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: P.J., you’ll remember the Secretary being very frustrated a while back that there wasn’t a USAID administrator in place. And the USAID Administrator was sworn in literally days before this tragedy struck. Is there any way that that lack of an administrator, or coming in at a very – at the last moment before this had any effect on the way that this operation is being carried out?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s been a tremendously positive effect. She is thrilled that Dr. Raj Shah is on board. Thankfully, he was on board when this tragedy took place. And it is – he has energized USAID. He has led them ably over the past week as the senior U.S. official designated by President Obama. He has a familiarity with Haiti. But every day, Raj has been pushing to try to do as much as possible for the benefit of our citizens and Haitian citizens. So we’re – I think the Secretary is enormously grateful that we were able to have Raj in place before this started.

QUESTION: Could I ask you just one more?


QUESTION: We’re getting a lot of comments from —

MR. CROWLEY: But, I mean, let me – but to your point, I mean, the significant limiting factor in terms of our ability to move forward is, in reality, the infrastructure in Haiti. And we are working on these things every day to try to expand the channels of assistance. And once we’re able to build our ability to operate the ports, you’re going to see an enormous increase in the flow. But to the credit of the United States military, we started the operation with maybe 20 or so flights a day; they’re now up well over a hundred. And so the use of the airport has expanded significantly in recent days.

So – but it is the collaboration, the military working closely with USAID, and USAID drawing from the strengths of other agencies of government, from HHS on the health side, FEMA to provide additional search-and-rescue capability. This has been, I think, quite an effective operation. There are those who are suggesting that it should have been entirely a military organization; it should have been entirely civilian organization. The fact is working closely with the Haitian Government, working effectively as a whole-of-government team, the military, civilians working side by side. I think this has been an extraordinary effort over the past week led by Dr. Shah.

QUESTION: Just one last question, because we get so many comments from people in the field about how things are working on the ground, but a little bit broader. Is there any way that when the United States makes decisions about what it wants to on the ground, it has to consult, of course, it’s getting with the government, with the Haitian Government, with the UN, et cetera. But is there any way that in waiting or doing things at the behest of that government that the U.S. didn’t move quickly enough? In other words, the government really wasn’t up and functioning very well. Is there a possibility that the U.S. waited for the Haitian Government to say what it wanted and valuable time was lost?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think actually it was the opposite. I don’t think you can question the speed through which we have done what we’ve done. It’s been nothing short of remarkable, giving – given the inherent limiting factors that we were confronting in trying to help the poorest country in our hemisphere recover from this.

So I don’t think speed is really the issue. The issue here, as you pointed out, Jill, in one of your earlier questions, is how fast can we get to a level of sustainment where we can stabilize this population? That remains a significant challenge. Every day we increase the amount of aid being delivered to more people. But we are not, quite honestly, at the 3 million mark yet. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet. But within a couple of hours of the earthquake, we were in touch with the Haitian ambassador the United States. And on behalf of his country, he gave us a very simple message: We welcome your support, and provide us everything you can possibly provide us.

And we’ve taken that charge. We’ve moved forward. But one of the purposes of the Secretary’s trip to Port-au-Prince on Saturday was to make sure that we were fully coordinated and to make sure that we had common understanding between the United States and Haiti and the international community on what was expected of us and mechanisms so that together we could advance as effectively as possible, and we have done that. And so, I don’t think – but I don’t think that anyone can question the speed, and I don’t think anyone can question the fact that we’ve put on the ground enormous capabilities that work – they’re very mindful. There are some things that can repeat themselves from one disaster to another, but a disaster in Haiti is remarkably different than a disaster in Indonesia, which is remarkably different from a disaster in New Orleans.


MR. CROWLEY: And we have tried to adapt our operations based on the realities that exist on the ground in Haiti today, and based on a common understanding from the Haitian Government, the United States Government, the UN, and the international community, what can we do most effectively today to serve the needs of the Haitian people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) P.J. I mean, you talked a lot about this whole-of-government approach, and that every agency from the U.S. Government is working on this particular crisis. And so what some disaster experts say is that agencies of the United States don’t necessarily – the way they work and the way they think for a U.S. disaster or a U.S. emergency isn’t the same as a kind of international disaster where some of the things that need to be focused on are not being focused on. For instance, the search and rescue – obviously, that’s a priority of the Haitian Government, but the amount of —

MR. CROWLEY: It was also a priority of the United States Government.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying that it’s not, but what some disaster experts are saying, while search and rescue is important, it’s more important to stave off a second wave where you can actually lose more lives if you don’t prevent the second wave of disaster, of disease, of starvation, of lack of clean water and sanitation, than you could by saving in the search and rescue. And so do you think that this whole-of-government, of U.S. approach, is equipped to deal with an international emergency?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, several things. First of all, in any disaster, the first priority is urban search and rescue and to try and save as many lives as possible in that critical period of time in the first 72 hours or so. And we know we’re past that 72-hour period and the teams are still there on the ground and still have active search-and-rescue operations underway.

We did – so we did this based on the reality of what we understood about Haiti, because we do know Haiti exceedingly well. And I’m not sure in getting from 20 flights a day to where we hope to get to 200 flights a day – I’m not sure where a first wave and a second wave work into this. From the very outset, we were – while we were focusing on getting the airport up and running and getting search-and-rescue teams here, we were also flowing medical disaster teams, also flowing food and water. So we didn’t wait and do just one thing; we were doing several things simultaneously. But we recognize, given the inherent limitation of the infrastructure that there, it’s not so much waves, it’s really capacity.

And what we have done, but it’s taken a while, is over seven days been able to expand the capacity, the flow, and the networks so that more and more assistance is coming into Haiti. It’s one of the reasons why the carrier is important, because it brought with it significant supplies, but it brought with it helicopters which allowed us a second channel of assistance.

Now with the (inaudible) there, that gives us a third channel of assistance. Now we have the ports that we are gradually starting to bring up a very limited flow of containers through the ports, and that gives us a fourth channel of assistance. And then working very closely with the Dominican Republic that has wanted to be very helpful, we have the flow of material on land from the base at San Isidro, that gives us a fifth channel of assistance. And we are now working to where, even though we are still focused on rescue, we’re looking at what do we have to do to sustain this population, and it’s not too early to think of what do we have to do to start to rebuild Haiti going forward.

All of these things are working simultaneously. But those that want to suggest that there’s a better way have to recognize that we have to deal with – we have been dealing for a week with the reality that exists in Haiti and trying to work through figurative and literal obstacles – clearing roads, expanding the network, looking at a variety of ways in which we can deliver assistance to the Haitian people.

QUESTION: Who is running the Office of Foreign Assistance? Is it the USAID? Is it the director of FEMA at this point?

MR. CROWLEY: The – FEMA is supporting DART, part of the USAID. So, FEMA’s not – FEMA is in a support role providing a different capacity.

QUESTION: Well, isn’t the direct —

MR. CROWLEY: For example, the Miami-Dade search-and-rescue team was provided to USAID by FEMA.

QUESTION: Well, but isn’t the director of FEMA or someone in a high position in FEMA actually running right now the USAID Office of Foreign Assistance?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR. CROWLEY: You might ask that question of DHS as well, since they own FEMA. But I mean — I’ll —

QUESTION: Well, it’s a USAID, is it State —

MR. CROWLEY: For example, who’s running this operation? It’s Dr. Raj Shah who’s in charge of USAID. It’s Dr. Raj Shah. Now, you have, again, under whole-of-government that you somehow questioned a minute ago, are we bringing experts in from other parts of government to contribute their expertise to this? We are. Are there FEMA people that – I mean, there are DHS people that have been seconded to USAID to supplement our capacity in various places as we’ve moved many of our assets down range. I mean, obviously, for the Secretary, one of her long-range objectives for USAID, is actually to grow the capacity that exists inside USAID. It is a shell of what it used to be. And she wants to expand the – those who are working directly under Administrator Shah as we go forward.

So to the extent that we are bringing in expertise from across government, bringing in expertise that might exist within the private sector or the nongovernmental sector, sure we’re doing that. So is it logical that that might be the case where you’ve got a FEMA person integrated into USAID because they have relevant expertise that exists within the U.S. Government, I think that’s an effective use of the talent that exists within the United States Government.

QUESTION: But FEMA is a federal emergency management agency, and is —

MR. CROWLEY: With extraordinary experience —

QUESTION: I’m not saying that.

MR. CROWLEY: — when it comes to disasters.

QUESTION: Okay, but that’s – I’m not saying that they don’t have experience on disasters. But – these are – this is an international disaster with specific needs for the population that – a federal emergency, we don’t have those type of issues.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. Elise, you can – I don’t get your point. In other words, if you’ve got somebody who’s an expert in water or hygiene or food delivery, whether they previously delivered that during a hurricane in Florida and now are delivering similar assistance to the people of Haiti —

QUESTION: You don’t think there’re different considerations for Haiti than there are for assistance in Florida?

MR. CROWLEY: Are there differing considerations?


MR. CROWLEY: But at the end of this – I mean, what – I mean, we’re doing the other – you’re taking military logisticians who are used to providing supplies to troops in Afghanistan and Haiti – or Afghanistan and Iraq, and now they’re delivering valuable resources to the people of Haiti. I mean, you have a core expertise, and we are, in fact, drawing people who have expertise from across government. As we go forward, I’m sure that we’ll be drawing on our experts in agriculture from the Department of Agriculture to kind of resurrect the agricultural sector in Haiti.

So, I mean, we are using the same fundamental approach in this case as we are doing in other instances such as Afghanistan, which is we have experts within government. And I know, for example, there are some, such as General Honore’, who thinks that that you seem to channel assistance through one mechanism, and his preferred mechanism is the United States military. We’re not doing it that way. We have significant expertise across the government, not just in the State Department, not just in USAID, not just in the Department of Defense. We’re drawing from valuable resources from the Department of Homeland Security, from HHS. Going forward, we’ll need Treasury experts to help us with how to rebuild the Haitian economy, how to get the banks reopened again. Why do we think that, somehow, there is one set formula and we’re only going to draw by that formula? It doesn’t make any sense.


QUESTION: P.J, can you comment on the security (inaudible) just so Pentagon announced there will be another runway open. Is that – can we see that as a response to —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that that’s —


MR. CROWLEY: There’s one runway at the airport.

QUESTION: Yeah. They say there will be another – which, I just saw it on my Blackberry.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, to the extent that you can improve the capacity of that airport, that has been, as we’ve talked about today, a limiting factor. But, I mean, our – humanitarian operations is a core mission of the military. It’s something that we have done many times in the past. Most people remember, whether it’s earthquake assistance in Pakistan or tsunami assistance in Indonesia, they have a proud history of doing this. So the real thing they have to focus on is what are we doing and why are we doing this? We’re not doing this to take over Haiti. We are doing this because you have three million people in dire need of assistance, and that’s what American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marine, and civilians, have done for many, many decades.

Yes. Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment the weekend terrorist strike by the Taliban inside Kabul, where 12 people were killed there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Taliban have obviously claimed responsibility for this latest attack and we condemn these in the strongest possible terms. I think it only will increase our determination to work with the Afghan Government and with our NATO allies and others to try to help Afghanistan in every way possible mitigate and ultimately defeat this insurgent adversary.

QUESTION: Do you see indeed the strikes and ability increasing, ability, capability of Taliban to strike, such strikes?

MR. CROWLEY: I – we – obviously, this was an attack perpetrated by a relatively small number of individuals. I think we look at – the Afghan security forces performed very admirably in responding to and ultimately dealing with the perpetrators of this. So I think you have to look – I mean, there are going to be attacks. We understand that we are facing a determined insurgency. The timing of the attack was probably not a coincidence in terms of the early stages of the Karzai administration. But it’s why we are there, it is why we are working very closely with the Afghan Government. It’s why we are going to continue to build the capacity of the Afghan Government, build the capability of the Afghan security forces so they can do what they did yesterday and ultimately extend the security of the nation.

QUESTION: It is one year that the Administration, this Administration’s one year tomorrow. How do you view the situation there in Afghanistan and Pakistan? You have two reviews over there.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are – as the President —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) right direction? Or it’s – there have been more strikes —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is – it’s a challenging situation. By the same token, you’ve seen progress. You’ve – the Karzai government is putting its – gradually putting its government in place. President Karzai is having to work with his parliament, just like President Obama works with his Congress. We are committed to expand the capacity of the government at the national level and also work to improve the delivery of services at the local level. So we’re – we think we are on the right path, we have the right strategy, we’re adding resources to the fight. And we are confident that this is the right strategy.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran?


QUESTION: Can we go back to Haiti, actually?

QUESTION: I have two questions – last questions on Haiti. First of all, could you talk a little bit about the radio messages from VOA and others that were delivered to —

MR. CROWLEY: Nice shout-out, David.

QUESTION: — that David Gollust was broadcasting into – (laughter) – into Haiti? Just about why you thought that they were – about Haitians should stay in Haiti and not take the risks to come to the United States? If you could talk a little bit about why you thought that was necessary, and are you also broadcasting to Haitians about where to get aid?

And then secondly, can you talk a little bit about the priorities of what types of planes are getting in? Because as you – I’m sure you’ve seen the statement from Doctors Without Borders last night that said that a lot of the medical supplies are not getting in that they need. And we’ve also heard from some other doctors that they’re not – that there are plenty of doctors on the ground ready to help, but there’s a real shortage of medical supplies getting out to the people.

So can you talk about – a little bit about the priority of getting food and water versus medical supplies out?

MR. CROWLEY: All of those are priorities, as I listed at the top of the briefing. Getting – distributing medical supplies is among our highest priorities. We are trying to work on a system where any aircraft has to apply in advance before taking off. They’re slotted in. There have been a small number of diversions. I think if you look at the overall scope of the operation, it’s been remarkable that the diversions have been a relatively small number.

But these can happen for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is you have an airplane that lands and is projected to be able to offload its cargo and be on its way in a certain timeframe, and for some reason, the airplane takes longer to offload, the airplane breaks. But because you have a limited capacity or limited ramp space at the airport, then all of a sudden, it has a cascading effect. And in that case, if there’s a delay, in some cases, airplanes are orbiting and they have sufficient fuel. In some cases, they are diverted and then they have to get back in line again.

I know it’s frustrating for particular organizations, but I think if you look at this at the 20,000-foot level, it’s been remarkable how we’ve been able to get as much assistance into a very limited airport as we have. And we will continue to work these issues and to make the operation as efficient as possible. But on a daily basis, it’s likely that a handful of flights are going to be diverted not because we’re trying to prevent any particular type of assistance from getting in, but just because we’re having to work through very challenging logistical and transportation conditions.

QUESTION: How was the decision made to let Governor Rendell’s plane come in versus a plane that had medical equipment that could have saved lives and that was diverted? I mean, how do you make that call?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the operation down south only because obviously, to land, you have to have permission. And to have permission, you have to apply, and that airplane was permitted to land.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you talk about the messages, the radio messages?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are trying to find a variety of ways to communicate to the Haitian people, and in some cases, we’re looking to see if the Haitian media are coming back up and running. We’ve been doing aggressive outreach to the diaspora here in the United States because they have the ability to communicate back to Haiti as well. We’ve been looking at ways in which we can use tools that exist with the United States Government to communicate with the people of Haiti.

Here at the State Department, and maybe we’ll have someone come down and brief you, we’ve started working with the wireless providers in Haiti. They’re gradually bringing their capability back up again. And we’re working to be able to have a texting program. We’ve got a lot of volunteers who are manning a network so that people can text from Haiti and say “I’m here and I need water,” “I’m here and I need medical care,” “I’m here and I’m wondering where do I go to get – where’s the nearest distribution point so I can get food, water or whatever I need.” You had some instances where people have been texting “I’m pinned under the rubble here at this particular location,” so mindful of that – there’s cell phone technology in Haiti, we’re looking at ways in which we can exploit that cell phone technology to make sure that we are providing important information to the people of Haiti.

QUESTION: But P.J., these are messages that the ambassador – apparently the Haitian ambassador recorded, telling people, “Don’t even think about trying to come to the United States because you’ll be turned back.” Now, what I guess we’d like to hear from you is an explanation for that because that could be perceived as pretty cruel under certain circumstances to tell people, “Don’t even think about fleeing your villages to come to the United States.”

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and when the – when we made the decision —

QUESTION: Now, why is it necessary?

MR. CROWLEY: — regarding extending temporary protective status to Haitians who are here, we have made clear and we are communicating to the Haitian people, you’re – we will bring assistance to you. And we are doing that, for – given these conditions, for them to attempt a perilous journey across the water to try to get to the United States or to try to get to one of the surrounding countries, we think is a substantial risk. Every time you’ve had this kind of movement from Haiti in the past, there’s been significant loss of life at sea.

So we are trying to communicate and make sure that they understand – we understand you’re in a dire situation; we are bringing assistance to you – food, water, medical care. We’re going to expand our ability to help provide shelter. We’re going to look for everything we possibly can in the next days and weeks to stabilize the population in Haiti. And then we will begin the process of rebuilding.

And I know when Secretary Clinton talked to President Preval and Prime Minister Bellerive on Saturday, Haiti is going to need all of its energy, all of its drive, all of its ingenuity to help rebuild from this tragedy. So rather than seeing yet another brain drain from Haiti, we’re also encouraging them – stay even though the conditions are horrible, and we’ll get the situation stabilized as quickly as possible, but then we will rely on you, the people of Haiti, to rise from this tragedy and to help the country rebuild.

QUESTION: P.J., on Google, has that demarche been issued and can you tell us what it says?

MR. CROWLEY: Kurt made clear that he had – he said what he said. I’m not going to go further.

QUESTION: No, but I mean, you told us on Friday it was going to be issued.



State Dept. Briefing

PJ Crowley, Spokesman

Jan 20, 2010


 PJ Crowley’s introductory statement

2:32 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Obviously, you heard from the Secretary a short time ago about progress being made today in Haiti, and obviously, our concern about the aftershock that Haiti suffered this morning.

Nonetheless, just to tick off a few things, we have 43 urban search-and-rescue teams still on the ground in Haiti. They continue to have ongoing operations, including seven teams continue to operate at the Hotel Montana. And to date, there have been 122 persons rescued, including – very, very recently, including 43 by the six U.S. teams.

As of eight o’clock this morning, a total of 6,174 Americans have departed Haiti. We continue to track and have files opened on roughly 12,300 Americans for whom we have information that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. And we have accounted for roughly 7,500 of those so far. We have a total of 33 confirmed American fatalities to date, including one member of our State Department family.

The Secretary talked about the importance of working with the Government of Haiti regarding adoptive children and orphans. So far, through a combination of the issuance of visas and humanitarian paroles, 146 children have come to the United States and we continue to work with the orphanages in Haiti on a couple of hundred additional. She mentioned that the USNS Comfort has arrived, which will significantly augment the infrastructure for the administration of medical care.

I think the military continues to do an incredible job. At the airport, yesterday, for example, there were 153 airlift flights. And there were some questions about the composition, but for – yesterday, for example, 115 of those flights were nonmilitary, 38 were from the Department of Defense. So that gives you kind of a sense of the rhythm at the airport. And I think as the military announced yesterday, we are hoping to open today another airfield at Jacmel outside of Port-au-Prince. We have C-130 flights operating out of San Isidro Airport in the Dominican Republic and we continue to work and to try to – and have port operations undergo – underway at eight Haitian ports, so continuing to expand our opportunity to bring needed assistance into Haiti. It’s our estimate at this point that MINUSTAH has been returned to about 80 percent of its strength before the earthquake and roughly 50 percent of the Haitian national police are currently on duty.

Q and A

QUESTION: Yeah. On the Haiti figures, you said that you had files on 12 – is that 12,300 Americans —


QUESTION: — and you’ve accounted for 7,500 of them?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve opened – within our crisis database, we’ve opened files on 12,300.

QUESTION: Does that mean that there are 4,800 Americans missing?

MR. CROWLEY: That means that we have not yet been able to account for 4,800 Americans, for whom we have information that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.

QUESTION: So they’re missing?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not yet accounted for them. I mean —

QUESTION: Well, I mean —

MR. CROWLEY: In other words, they could be sitting —

QUESTION: — you’re talking about almost 5,000 people. That’s a lot of people.

MR. CROWLEY: They – well, I mean, they could be sitting in their living rooms. In other words, people of the United States have provided us information to that – hey, I’ve got a loved one, I’ve got a friend in Haiti. The gap may simply be that people who are on the ground in Haiti have not seen a need or have not been able to contact the United States Embassy. So we have not yet accounted for them. I wouldn’t necessarily say all of them are missing.

QUESTION: Well, then before – you know, the figure for the total number of Americans was about 45,000; right?


QUESTION: So where – so if you’ve got – if you’ve evacuated 6,174, where are the – there seems to be a big disconnect between the —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. I mean, it —

QUESTION: I mean, are you sure all 45,000 were actually there, or do you think that it’s – the number is closer to 12,300?

MR. CROWLEY: Once again, the composition of the American community in Haiti includes a substantial number of people who had dual citizenship. So – and they – since they’ve chosen in many cases to live in Haiti, they may not have seen a need to contact us. So yeah, we – I mean, the Secretary has said we remain concerned about the welfare of all citizens of Haiti including our own citizens there, and we are doing what we can. But I wouldn’t draw any specific conclusions from the fact that a substantial number have not yet contacted the government.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s a week on. I’m just trying to get a handle on —


QUESTION: — what you think. I mean, are you —

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think – I don’t – we offer those figures just to give some perspective. You’ve asked us about them. I wouldn’t say that at this point we’re able to draw any significant conclusions from that.

QUESTION: So P.J., a couple days ago, you said there were three U.S. officials still unaccounted for. Can you give us an update on that? Then I have another question as well.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, it remains – that remains the number.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I want to ask about a USA Today story today about – quoting an Army major with the 82nd saying that USAID has given the Army strict instructions not to hand out any aid. I was curious whether that was accurate.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s not.

QUESTION: It’s not? Okay.

QUESTION: A couple of things. Just on that three unaccounted for, is that included in the 4,800 or is it 4,803, just to be precise? I’m sorry, I’m just trying to be precise.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure it’s included in the forty —


QUESTION: And just one more on that: So three not accounted for, but does that mean that – as in the other day, the one was accounted for, the woman who died?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We still have three official U.S. Government persons for whom we have not yet accounted for.

QUESTION: Just a couple on the distribution of aid and prioritizing of flights. Today, there was a U.S. military briefing by some military officials and basically, there were questions about prioritization of flights and, you know, why certain medical supplies that, you know, a lot of doctors were clamoring for weren’t getting on the ground. And they pretty much said it was USAID’s call, that USAID is prioritizing the flights and they’re specifically – that basically, you had the final call on what flights get in and what flights get out.

Now, the UN says that that isn’t exactly accurate, that you and the UN together, along with the Haitian Government, are giving prioritization of what types of flights need to get in and then the U.S. military is calling the shots on which specific flights get in when. Which is it?

MR. CROWLEY: I would say that, collectively, USAID, working with the Haitian Government and with the UN, on a daily basis, we are setting the broad priorities for what the – what we need to bring in today based on how we assess the situation on the ground in Haiti. And as we’ve detailed, on a given day, it might be water here, food there, medical assistance. And then that determines the priority in which – since we are still in a situation where there are far more aircraft that would like to fly to Haiti on a given day than we have slots available to be able to accomplish that.

And then once we set the priorities, then you – we apply those priorities to the array of people who are applying for slots to be able to fly in. And as we’ve worked this with the Haitian Government, you now have notices to airmen, NOTAMs, that says you have to apply for permission, and based on that, so —


MR. CROWLEY: Now, in terms of the mechanics, at any particular time, that is controlled by the —

QUESTION: Controlled by the U.S. military. All right.

MR. CROWLEY: — people. So if an airplane is not taking off, then it might be because for this particular day, we are looking for a different cargo. But once an airplane is airborne, if it has diverted, it is usually because for some reason on the ground, we just can’t accommodate the airplane at that particular moment.

QUESTION: Okay. Two questions – follow-up questions on that: First of all, are you satisfied that the U.S. military that’s controlling the airport is carrying out the priorities as expressed to them by you, the Haitian Government, and the —

MR. CROWLEY: The U.S. military is doing a remarkable job.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that they’re carrying out the priorities in terms of bringing in the specific flights that you need?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve heard nothing that says that the application of the priorities is an issue.

QUESTION: Okay. And then can you speak a little bit more about Doctors Without Borders? There seems to be a lot of confusion on what’s going on with their specific flights. They claim even as this morning that they’ve been diverted five times.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll defer to the folks down south. I do not know. I mean, certainly, we are welcoming of our NGO partners, who are playing a valuable role. Doctors Without Borders has a long and proud tradition of working in these. We have them on the ground. We’re working with them on a regular basis.

As to why they have been diverted, if it’s – I’m aware of, say, two of those five. But my impression is that it was just because you had challenges on the ground that – a particular timing of their flights, we couldn’t accommodate. It’s certainly not because we do not admire, respect, and want to see Doctors Without Borders play a significant role in this operation.

QUESTION: And then just one more, I promise. Just moments ago on the U.S. medical aid call, one of the gentlemen said that we were asking about the delay of medical supplies throughout the country, and he said that while the WHO is helping to kind of coordinate donations coming in, that distribution of medical supplies throughout the country is being run by the Haitian Ministry of Health.

And I’m just wondering, given that everybody has acknowledged that the ministries are under capacity and taxed – and I understand that the Haitian health ministry is one of the better ones in shape, but still, there is a very serious lack of capacity – is that slowing up the delivery of medical care? I know there’s a desire to have the Haitians in front, but is the lack of capacity on the Haitian Ministry of Health delaying the delivery of medical supplies?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we have to be careful about nomenclature here. As we have said many times, we are working through the Government of Haiti and the UN. And we are working from a fully coordinated plan. The Haitian Government has a role in determining how you want to set up the network.

QUESTION: But can they physically distribute it, though?

MR. CROWLEY: But I would – the only thing I would tweak there is that I – clearly, what the international effort is doing here is substituting for the capacity that the Government of Haiti clearly lacks, given the current circumstances and the impact that the earthquake had not only on Haitian society, but on the Government of Haiti. That said, we are working to support and to help bring up to fuller capacity existing medical structures in Haiti, as well as bringing in and putting out field hospitals that various entities, including the United States, have brought to Haiti.

So it’s a combination of things. So I would think – I would infer that should the Government of Haiti continue to make decisions relative to support for their own medical facilities inside the country, I can certainly see where they have a role there. But I certainly also – from their priorities, the flow of medical supplies and care is being done by the international community on behalf of the Government of Haiti.


QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up on my question about USA Today? You said that their story was not accurate. Can you tell us whether there’s any restrictions on the U.S. military’s distribution of aid? I mean, are they allowed to hand it out? I mean, could you spell it out a little bit more? Are they allowed to —

MR. CROWLEY: I think the story is misleading. Why don’t we talk afterwards?

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?


QUESTION: No, wait, wait. Hold on a second. Do you have —

QUESTION: Two points, sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Are we still on Haiti?

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Yeah.


QUESTION: Two points, just please. One, INF chief yesterday called on the global community for a Marshall Plan in Haiti. And second, as far as Haiti and help is concerned – Secretary Gates is in India – if he’s carrying any kind of message from the Secretary of State as far as help in Haiti is concerned, India’s role?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Secretary talked a little bit – she was asked a similar question upstairs, and talked about the considerable task in front of us and the need for the international community to come together and raise the necessary resources to rebuild Haiti. A significant step in that process will happen next week with the preliminary meeting in Montreal. The United Nations has already put out a call for funding for the first tranche of rebuilding of Haiti.

So, this effort is also – is already underway. Whether you want to call it a Marshall Plan, I mean, I’m sure we’ll come up with a way to describe this over time, but no doubt Haiti is going to require substantial assistance from the international community on a sustained basis going forward. As to whether this will come up in Secretary Gates’s discussions in India, I’ll defer to the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Or if U.S. has asked in any way any kind of help from India – direct from India?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that is obviously a decision for the Government of India and I’m sure that it will give this every consideration.

QUESTION: And P.J., on the alphabetical list of countries, and you can tell us which one (laughter) – how long – wait, wait, wait – I’m – it’s related to the aid. I’m just – do you have an update on the – a dollar figure amount on the material that – and supplies that – from AID?

MR. CROWLEY: No, let me get that for you, see what we have.

QUESTION: Speaking of aid – well, I guess it’s more a money question – today, some people on the ground saw – they weren’t sure if it was UN or USAID trucks taking some, like, large parcels out of the bank. And I was wondering if you were being asked by the Haitian Government to secure the cash reserves, because I know there is a concern about looting and the building may not be that secure. So —

MR. CROWLEY: I think in the – I can’t characterize what someone on the ground saw, but certainly one of the goals that Haiti has put forward is that as early as tomorrow, it hopes to open 40 banks for a brief period of time, perhaps up to four hours, which would be a major step in terms of trying to stabilize the population. So that is something that they have on their list of things they hope to accomplish by tomorrow.

QUESTION: But you don’t know anything specifically about taking out large cash reserves for security?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll – again, I’ll defer to my colleagues down south.

QUESTION: You called our story misleading, so I have to ask you, yesterday the 82nd Airborne told our correspondent on the ground that they were not authorized to distribute food. Today, this morning they were. So I’m wondering what – if you know what changed.

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s – I’m only passingly familiar with that story. But I think the issue was not the ability of a soldier to actually literally distribute food to needy people. They’re doing – the soldiers and Marines are doing that throughout Haiti today.

The issue that generated the question was the method of delivery. And we have gone back and forth, we have tried various – but the issue behind the story was whether a particular operation should be accomplished by airdrops or by some other means. And it was the judgment of USAID that airdrops were not the appropriate method to use for that particular location. That was what was communicated between – so I say misleading in the sense that the story suggests that AID was telling the military, don’t distribute food. And that was misleading and inaccurate.

QUESTION: Okay. I have just a quick related follow-up on the airfield. The question’s been asked of the military: Why haven’t you tried to build an unimproved airstrip next to the main one so that you could at least land C-130s?

They didn’t really answer it. I asked that question to the Air Force people on the ground, and they said that’s the decision of the Haitian Government. But wouldn’t – is anyone at the State Department raising this issue with the Haitian Government?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I suppose one thing you have to – I mean, we’re one week into the operation, so as you’re trying to bring in the kinds of materials that you’ve seen on the ground – and Ken, you were there the other day – how you bring in the kind of engineering gear to be able to build an auxiliary airstrip – I mean, that would be the kind of thing you could contemplate if you had access to a port and you could bring in a ship that has lots of engineering gear. But you would tie up the capacity of the airport, which is your lifeline in terms of bringing in food and water.

So I think to – again, to the credit of the military, we have taken a basic operation and expanded it beyond what anyone might have envisioned when they first put eyes on the airport one week ago. We are looking at other options if, at some point in time, there’s a feeling that further infrastructure is necessary and can be done in a timely way. But I think my gut feeling would be that kind of operation at this time would, in fact, be the kind of situation that would seize up the rest of the distribution of lifesaving supplies to the Haitian people.

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