U.S. military unclear about when to retreat from Haiti

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The U.S. military has not yet set a time frame to retreat from the relief operations in Haiti that has been hit by a strong earthquake, said a senior officer on Tuesday.

General Ken Keen, the deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command and the commander of Joint Task Force Unified Response in Haiti, told a video-conference that it is still too early to say how long it would take before the U.S. military could hand over relief operations to the U.S. and international civilian aid organizations.

"As they build up their capacity to provide that much-needed assistance, the need for our military forces will decreases," he said. "And we are talking to them as they build the capacity to do just that."

He also said that the U.S. military has been working with the UN, international community and the Haitian government to set up a 5,000-bed hospital to treat survivors from the earthquake that hit the country on Jan. 12.

Earlier in the day, Vice Admiral Alan Thompson, director of the Defense Logistics Agency told reporters at a different occasion that he believes the military could begin to withdraw from Haiti within three to six months and leave international organizations to assume major roles in earthquake relief operations.

So far, the Pentagon has sent more than 15,000 military personnel to Haiti.

However, the dominant U.S. role in earthquake-hit Haiti has been questioned by some countries.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet said on Monday that the U.S. military had monopolized the airport. "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," he said on French radio, in Brussels for an EU meeting on Haiti.

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