U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered that approximately 100 American troops be dispatched to central Africa to help hunt down and find the Lord's Resistance Army's notorious leader Joseph Kony.
However, the troops will only act as advisers and will not take part in combat unless it is necessary for self-defense purposes, Obama noted in a letter to Congress on Friday.
I have authorized a small number of combat equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield, Obama stated in the letter. I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter LRA efforts in central Africa.
The guerrilla group has been accused of widespread atrocities that include murder, rape and the kidnapping of tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa. These atrocities have been and continue to be committed across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
Obama said the guerrilla group's actions have a disproportionate impact on regional security.
The U.S. has supported regional military efforts to track down the LRA and protect local communities since 2008. But Obama said that with this limited U.S. assistance, regional military efforts have been unsuccessful in removing Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield.
A team was deployed to Uganda on Oct. 12 with what the President called appropriate combat equipment. Additional forces will be deployed during next month, which will include a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications, and logistics personnel.
These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA, Obama emphasized in his letter. Our forces will provide information, advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces.
But all this is subject to the approval of each respective host nation, he added.
In addition to Uganda, forces will also hunt down Kony in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Although the U.S. forces are combat equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense, Obama stated. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.
He added that this deployment is in the interest of national security and foreign policy.
The U.S. State Department issued a release on Friday in which it noted that noted that since 2008 alone, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400.
Additionally, the United Nations estimates that more than 380,000 people are displaced across Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan because of the guerrilla group's activity.
The U.S. has also provided more than $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to help counter-LRA operations by regional militaries, the State Department noted.
Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. also provided more than $18 million in humanitarian assistance to the affected regions for food, humanitarian protection, health and more.
The Pentagon's Web site noted that since 2008, the U.S. also provided $33 million in support to the Ugandan military's counter-LRA efforts for logistical support, nonlethal equipment, training and intelligence assistance.
A Pentagon official said that U.S. forces supporting this operation are primarily special operations forces. These forces will work to build the capacity of the units they are working with.
They bring the experience and technical capability to train, advise and assist partner security forces in support of programs designed to support internal security, he said. Our intention is to provide the right balance of strategic and tactical experience to supplement host nation military efforts... Ultimately, Africans are responsible for African security, but we remain committed to our partners to enable their efforts to provide for their own security.