The Washington Post – 2011-12-14 00:26:22
Is a US Military Precedent Being Set in Africa?
Walter Pincus / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON (December 12, 2011) — The United States has undertaken an “armed humanitarian mission” in sending 100 Special Forces troops into Central Africa to help the Ugandan army and other local forces capture or kill the leadership of the cultlike Lord’s Resistance Army.
That’s not my description. It was used Wednesday by William M. Bellamy, director of the National Defense University’s Africa Center and a former US ambassador in Kenya. He also said there were “no good precedents” for what we are doing.
My thought on hearing “armed humanitarian mission” was: Would this be the precedent for military deployments in the post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan world?
Bellamy was speaking at a US Institute of Peace (IOP) event about efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony. For 25 years, Kony has terrorized a wide area of Central Africa where three countries come together. His group’s killing, looting and kidnapping of young boys and forcing them to fight have continued despite sporadic efforts to capture him by Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic.
In all, the LRA has abducted 66,000 youth, some forced “to become child soldiers or sex slaves and ordered to commit unspeakable acts,” according to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who also spoke at the IOP event.
The United Nations has estimated that about 440,000 Africans have been displaced by LRA activities, and while the group’s leadership and core believers have been reduced to nearly 150, they still carried out 250 attacks this year, Carson said.
According to the Ugandan press, dozens of the US Special Forces troops have established a frontline base in Obo, a town in southeastern Central African Republic, to help the regional armies track down Kony and other LRA leaders. The forward-based personnel are there to help with intelligence, communications and logistics operations. They are to fight only in self-defense.
Most people are unaware that President Obama’s Oct. 14 announcement of the Special Forces deployment was done in accordance with a bill that Congress passed in 2009 and was signed into law in 2010. It required the administration to plan and coordinate “diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military elements of United States policy across the region regarding the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
In fact, the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill now before Congress calls for providing “logistic support, supplies, and services and intelligence support” for Ugandan and other forces “participating in operations to mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.” The legislation authorizes $35 million in 2012 and 2013 to cover the costs.
According to a Nov. 21 Congressional Research Service report, the Special Forces unit will cost an additional $4.5 million a month. That figure is on top of US liaison officers from Africa Command dispatched in July 2011 to “to assist host government officials and military commanders who are working to counter the LRA,” the service wrote.
Kony is a bad person, but what’s the history of US attempts to bring him down? In 2001, President George W. Bush placed the LRA on the US Terrorist Exclusion List. In November 2008, in his last months in office, Bush sent fewer than 20 military advisers to support Operation Lightning and Thunder, an anti-LRA effort in Congolese territory carried out by US-trained Ugandan army units and other regional forces.
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