WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will bolster security at its embassy in Haiti following last week’s assassination of that country’s president, but sending American troops to stabilize the country was “not on the agenda.”
Haiti’s interim government last week asked the U.S. and the United Nations to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure following President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. Biden signaled he was not open to the request, which comes as he is drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan this summer.
“We’re only sending American Marines to our embassy,” Biden said. “The idea of sending American forces to Haiti is not on the agenda,” he added.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s elections minister, told The Associated Press Thursday that he believes the request for U.S. troops is relevant given what he called a “fragile situation” and the need to create a secure environment for elections scheduled to happen in 120 days.
He also said Biden’s comment that sending U.S. troops was “not on the agenda” still leaves the option open.
“This is not a closed door. The evolution of the situation will determine the outcome,” Pierre said. “In the meantime, the government is doing everything we can to stabilize the country, return to a normal environment and organize elections while trying to come to a political agreement with most political parties.”
The Marines were part of the Marine Security Guard Security Augmentation Unit, sent to Port-Au-Prince “out of an abundance of caution,” a State Department spokesperson told Marine Corps Times on Friday.
The unit was created after the 2012 attack U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
Since being stood up, Marines from the unit have performed more than 100 security augmentation deployments, according to a Marine Corps press release from early July.
Previous missions include rapid deployment to Bangkok in 2013 to 2014 and an “overland insertion” into Paris during a wave of protests in the French city.
Most recently 13 Marines with the unit were sent to the U.S. Embassy in eSwatini when the government started to violently crack down on pro-democracy protests.
The request for U.S. intervention recalled the tumult following Haiti’s last presidential assassination, in 1915, when an angry mob dragged President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam out of the French Embassy and beat him to death. In response, President Woodrow Wilson sent Marines into Haiti, justifying an American military occupation — which lasted nearly two decades — as a way to avert anarchy.
Biden addressed the situation in Haiti during a joint press conference at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Associated Press writer Danica Coto contributed to this report from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
This story was updated with more information about the Marine unit that was sent to Haiti.