President Obama has announced the US is sending "about 100" armed military advisers to Central Africa to assist government troops fighting a vicious insurgency whose leaders are international war-crimes fugitives.
Read the President's Letter to Congress HERE.
The Lord's Resistance Army is a quasi religious armed movement headed by Joseph Kony. The 20-year-old insurgency has been condemned for its horrific violence, including the murder, rape, kidnapping and mutilation of tens of thousands of men, women, and children across Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, reports Reuters.
Obama made clear the troops would serve as trainers and advisers in efforts to hunt down rebel leader Joseph Kony and would not engage in combat except in self-defense. In a letter to Congress, Obama said the first U.S. forces arrived in Uganda on Wednesday and would be deployed to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo "subject to the approval of each respective host nation."
Obama's decision commits U.S. forces to help confront a rebel group that has drawn international condemnation for decades of chilling violence, including hacking body parts off victims and the abduction of young boys to fight and young girls for use as sex slaves.
The LRA, which says it is a religious group, emerged in northern Uganda in the 1990s and is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of people. Kony has been indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
LRA commanders have been operating in the wild and largely lawless border regions of the DRC, Central African Republic and Sudan in recent years. Although now thought to number just a few hundred fighters, the LRA's mobility and the difficulties of the terrain have made it difficult to tackle. Attempts to negotiate peace failed in 2008 after Kony refused to sign a deal to end the killing.
The troops were dispatched "with the consent" of Uganda's government and President Yoweri Museveni. The military effort will be conducted in tandem with "enhanced" diplomatic and intelligence efforts, adds Think Progress Security.
This will help generate a quicker response to LRA attacks on civilian populations, encourage greater and more effective collaboration between regional militaries, and hold these militaries to a higher civilian protection standard.
The regional militaries involved in LRA operations — primarily Uganda, with some assistance from Congo and South Sudan — suffer from a lack of technical capacity and insufficient resources. If we’re honest, they have also suffered from discipline problems — which makes partnering with them tricky business, a dilemma of which the administration is well aware.
"Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries," reports the State Department.