published Sunday, October 16th, 2011

U.S. ventures into bloody Africa conflict

President Barack Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

By MARK S. SMITH and BRADLEY KLAPPER

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States is venturing into one of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts, sending about 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to support a years-long fight against a guerrilla group accused of horrific atrocities.

The Obama administration said the troops will advise, not engage in combat, unless forced to defend themselves.

In a letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said Friday that the troops will assist local forces in a long-running battle against the Lord’s Resistance Army, considered one of Africa’s most ruthless rebel groups, and help to hunt down its notorious leader, Joseph Kony.

The first of the troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday, the White House said, and others will be sent to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While the size of the U.S. footprint is small, Obama’s announcement represents a highly unusual intervention for the United States. Although some American troops are based in Djibouti and small groups of soldiers have been deployed to Somalia, the U.S. traditionally has been reluctant to commit forces to help African nations put down insurgencies.

It demonstrates the Obama administration’s escalating attention to and fears about security risks in Africa, including terror networks, piracy and unstable nations. The move was intended to show some engagement to lessen the impact of one of the worst protracted wars in Africa.

Obama declared his decision to send troops as in keeping with the national security interests of the United States. The White House announced it in a low-key fashion, releasing the Obama notification and justification of the troop deployment that the president sent to congressional leaders.

Pentagon officials said the bulk of the deployment will be of special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units. The move raises the profile of U.S. involvement on the continent — and represents an apparent victory for administration officials who have argued for more robust intervention in humanitarian crises.

The change in policy could reflect the long-standing concerns of a number of high-ranking Obama advisers left scarred by the U.S. failure in the 1990s to intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda and the belated action to finally halt the violence in Bosnia. For a current parallel, the Lord’s Resistance Army’s 24-year campaign of rebellion, rape and murder represents one of the world’s worst human rights crises today.

Coming off the administration’s successful, if limited, intervention in Libya, the Uganda deployment represents a continued effort by Obama to use military force for humanitarian protection in areas where atrocities are occurring. Sending 100 troops may not be significant in terms of military numbers, but the composition of the force gives the United States a new counterterrorism foothold in a region of the world with terrorist networks, pirates and unstable nations.

A special forces unit can be highly effective beyond what the number of soldiers might suggest. They are highly skilled in disrupting insurgency networks by discovering where rebels are based and how they procure guns, money and other logistical support.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has been pushing westward since it began its attacks years go, and the administration and human rights groups say its atrocities have left thousands dead and have put as many as 300,000 Africans to flight. They have charged the group with seizing children to bolster its ranks of soldiers and sometimes forcing them to become sex slaves.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court under a 2005 warrant for crimes against humanity in his native Uganda. A self-styled prophet, who mixes Christian mysticism with politics, he is believed hiding along the Sudan-Congo border.

Most of the troops will deploy to regional capitals to work with government officials and military commanders on countering the rebels and protecting civilians, Pentagon officials said.

In recent months, the administration has stepped up its support for Uganda, which has played a key role in battling extremists in Somalia.

In June, the Pentagon moved to send nearly $45 million in military equipment to Uganda and Burundi. The aid included four small drones, body armor and night-vision and communications gear and is being used in the fight against al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group that U.S. officials see as an increasing threat and that African peace-keeping troops in Somalia have been battling to suppress.

At the State Department, officials portrayed the new troop deployment as part of a larger anti-LRA strategy that dates to the Bush administration but also includes legislation passed by Congress this year.

Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s military spokesman, said of the troops: “We are aware that they are coming. We are happy about it. We look forward to working with them and eliminating Kony and his fighters.”

———

Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matthew Lee, Lolita C. Baldor, Erica Werner and Donna Cassata in Washington and Godfrey Olukya in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.

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prairiedog said...

Send about a hundred more down here to patrol Chattanooga and stop the shootings.

Special forces troops on "training and advisory" missions like this use the cover story during the light of day to teach foreign troops just enough to walk into a U S Special Forces ambush. Their real mission is to establish security and intelligence for the covert missions that will come in the dark. There will be no more "Blackhawk Down" debacles caused by Democratic administrations fearful of seeing things that look like U S tanks firing on Africans.

Their mission is to identify the rebel leaders, sources of weapons and supplies, and "take them out." You don't win hearts and minds in primitive tribal cultures. The spiritual and superstitious beliefs (such that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS) in these cultures do not value life, peace or security. The fighters have nothing to lose by dying.

The real mission is incompatible with U S partisan politics. Any conflict involving members of different races will be used to complain of racism back here at home.

Find out who is building the drones for the CIA and buy stock. It's going to go way up. Spotting a rebel fighter with a weapon in the dark and taking them out by remote control is a very cheap and efficient way, in terms of risk to innocent lives and U S forces, to engage in these conflicts. Troops on the ground are not the way to do it.

This looks like a good move. We should have done more of it in the past. Newly developed technology gives us the edge and we should use it everywhere that criminals employ weapons against innocent people and law enforcement officers.

As a matter of fact, if we want to save lives on I-75, a couple of drones out there monitoring the 18-wheelers would go a long way.

October 16, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
onetinsoldier said...

That may be the only intelligent thing you've ever wrote tnv. Even a hog finds an acre now and then.

October 16, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.
holdout said...

These advisers look an awful lot like an expendable tripwire. Why are we getting involved where no one, on either side, wants us? The only unity we will bring is that everyone will unite to attack our troops. Humans have lived there longer than any other place on this planet so what makes us able to fix their problems? How many other ways can I say, "Bad idea"?

October 16, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Here we go AGAIN!!! Can't we just stay the H*ll out of other countries affairs?? They ALL hate us and will unite against us and run us out of there but not before killing half of the men we send in!!

AND WHO IN THIS WORLD WILL HELP US IN THIS FIGHT?!! NO ONE! THAT'S WHO!! England and Canada will send in 30 men each and pull out in 90 days....yet we are expected to help and lay down lives for every nation that has a problem...and do they APPRECIATE IT??!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Just look at France and how they hate us now after saving them in WWII!!...and Italy at how they portrayed/treated Amanda Knox in the Italian papers...They hate ALL Americans and yet we go running to save them when they cry "WOLF".

I'm sick of it! We have families in this country that need our government too! How much "bailout" can we get? How much of a paycheck raise or SS check raise can we get??

Yeah, that's what I thought!

October 16, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

It's about time! This is a conflict/disgrace that has been going on for too long. Show me where to sign up Mr. President, I'm there. You ladies can stay in the rear with the gear.

October 16, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
onetinsoldier said...

Isn't the Coast Guard suppose to guard the coast. Keep your mind on your job. If you really wanted action I would think the coast guard would be the last arm of the service you would join. P.S. Thanks for your service if you really provided one.

October 16, 2011 at 4:24 p.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

@ onetinsoldier- I wish I could guard our coast, but after 9/11 Congress had other plans for our teams. Most people don't know what all the CG does and where we operate. I've attached our standard press release that answers most questions. Also look up Deployable Operations Group (DOG), DSF's and MSRT's.

PS - Thank you for exercising your right to free speech.

http://www.d7publicaffairs.com/external/content/document/586/148975/1/The%20Ins%20and%20Outs%20of%20TACLET%20South.pdf

October 16, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Justreading said...

Thanks Mr Obama, wasn't you suppose to be ending these wars? We have zero business sticking our nose in this affair but here we go anyway.

October 17, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.
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