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Marine unit headed for Middle East now rerouted to Haiti

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, set to deploy to waters of the Middle East – potentially to support the mission in Afghanistan – is now headed to Haiti first. It's a sign of the depth of the humanitarian crisis.

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US marines carry bottled water after landing in a rural area outside Port-au-Prince Tuesday.

St Felix Evens/Reuters

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The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it would send a second Marine unit to Haiti to support what has become an expanding relief effort for the Defense Department, deepening the American military’s role there.

About 4,000 marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, N.C., who were scheduled to leave for the waters of the Middle East this week, will instead steam to Haiti to support humanitarian relief operations. The unit will still continue on to the Arabian Sea to support missions in the region and beyond – including potentially Afghanistan – for its scheduled deployment in the coming weeks.

But the decision to re-route the Marines points up the depth of the need for humanitarian assistance in Haiti, which experienced a severe aftershock Wednesday. It also presents the Pentagon with a delicate balancing act, since the already-overstretched US military can ill afford to get mired in a security-and-stabilization mission.

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