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Pentagon Reviews Options for Possible Troop Deployment in Haiti - 2004-02-27

As the unrest continues in Haiti, U.S. military officials are preparing for a variety of contingencies. The Pentagon is stressing no decisions have yet been made.

For the moment, the Bush administration's emphasis is on a political settlement of the crisis and the only special military force sent to Haiti has been a 50-member Marine security team assigned to protect the U.S. embassy.

Beyond that, defense officials say no additional forces have even been placed on standby for a possible deployment to the troubled Caribbean island.

However the officials say that among the military options under consideration is the dispatch of a three-ship amphibious group that could carry some 2,000 Marines.

A senior Marine commander last week told members of a Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed in the southern state of North Carolina they might be needed to respond to the Haiti crisis.

The Marines could deploy aboard the USS Saipan and two other vessels. The Saipan is capable of carrying a variety of helicopters as well as vertical-takeoff Harrier attack aircraft.

The helicopters could be useful for evacuations of embassy personnel and others, especially if conventional aircraft are unable to land at Haitian airports.

The ships could also assist in collecting people who might flee the island by sea.