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USS Vinson to leave Haiti soon, signaling turning point in aid efforts

The USS Vinson, which arrived in Haiti days after the earthquake, is the largest US naval contribution to relief efforts. It will leave behind more than 15 other naval ships.

The USS Carl Vinson operates Wednesday off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where it has been helping to provide releif to the country's earthquake victims. The aircraft carrier will soon leave Haiti, the Pentagon said Monday.

Phil Coale/AP

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The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will soon leave Haiti, the Pentagon said Monday, marking a turning point in the US military’s initial response to the earthquake last month.

Also this week, the military head of Haiti relief efforts will decide if the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which has been aiding in relief efforts, can continue on for its planned deployment to South Asia and the Middle East.

The US military, which already has its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, had responded substantively to the need in Haiti. But many in the Pentagon have been quietly asking about when operations could be handed over to the UN and other international relief groups.

Many of the problems confronting Haiti existed before the earthquake, and some US government officials are not keen to commit to a long-term nation rebuilding effort for fear of creating a new “dependency” on the US military at a time when it is already stretched thin.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday downplayed the USS Vinson's departure from Haiti, saying it did not signal the beginning of the end of US military aid in Haiti. "We anticipate being in Haiti for as long as we're needed, and for as long as the president wants us to be there and the Haitians want us to be there," he said. But he added that the Pentagon was looking at "what balance of assets makes the most sense."

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