Mullen: 9,000 to 10,000 troops in Haiti by Monday

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he expects 9,000 to 10,000 troops will be in Haiti and off its shore by Monday to help distribute aid and prevent potential rioting.

Adm. Mike Mullen also said Friday the total American presence could rise as U.S. military officers determine how much assistance may be needed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the primary goal is to distribute aid as quickly as possible “so that people don’t, in their desperation, turn to violence.” The secretary said military planners have been reluctant to drop food and water packages from the air because it could lead to lead to rioting. But bringing in supplies by sea and air have proved difficult because of Haiti’s badly damaged sea port and congested airport.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he thinks U.S. forces will be welcomed by Haitians as lead players in disaster relief efforts, but that substantial assistance will come from other nations as well.

Summing up initial U.S. work Friday, Gates said he believes coordination of American aid “has proceeded very well,” and said he didn’t see Washington as having an overly intrusive profile in the disaster-stricken country.

Gates told reporters he thinks the Haitian reaction “will be one of relief at seeing Americans providing” food, medicine, water and other emergency supplies. And he said it was vital to these supplies into the country immediately. Gates said the U.S. believes the security situation in Haiti “is pretty good,” other than some scavenging for food and water.