By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2011 – President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment to central Africa of 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces whose mission is to help regional forces fight the notorious Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Daniel Inouye, president pro tempore of the Senate, Obama notified Congress of his actions, as required by the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a federal law intended to limit the president’s power to commit the United States to armed conflict without congressional consent.
On Oct. 12, the president wrote, the initial team of U.S. combat-equipped military personnel deployed to Uganda. A total of 100 service members and civilians will deploy to the region over the next month, including a second combat-equipped team and headquarters, communications and logistics personnel.
Obama said the forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces and act as advisers to partner forces that seek to remove Kony and other senior LRA leadership from the battlefield.
U.S. forces will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense, the president said, and “all appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.”
“For more than two decades,” Obama wrote, “the Lord's Resistance Army has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa.”
The army continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, he added, and these actions have “a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
“Since 2008,” the president wrote, “the United States has supported regional military efforts to pursue the LRA and protect local communities.
Even with limited U.S. assistance, regional military efforts have been unable to remove Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield, Obama said.
In the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, enacted in May 2010, the president wrote, Congress expressed support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.
“Subject to the approval of each respective host nation,” the president wrote, “elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
The support provided by U.S. forces, he added, will enhance regional efforts against the LRA.
“I believe that deploying these U.S. armed forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy,” Obama wrote, “and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”
During an Oct. 4 military strategy forum, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, commented on the LRA.
"If you ever had any question if there's evil in the world, it's resident in the person of Joesph Kony and that organization," Ham said.
The U.S. military, Ham said, has focused on facilitating intelligence, and in a State Department-led effort, U.S. personnel trained a battalion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s armed forces. Ham said the U.S. government was looking to increase support to the counter-LRA efforts by increasing the number of military advisors and trainers and training another battalion.
A senior Defense Department official said today that since 2008, the United States has provided $33 million in support to the Ugandan military’s counter-LRA efforts and is providing logistical support, nonlethal equipment, training and intelligence assistance to other militaries working to counter the LRA.
For example, the official said, the United States is working to provide some equipment to the Central African Republic’s armed forces and coordinating with them to help in capitalizing on their counter-LRA efforts in the eastern part of that country.
The U.S.-trained Democratic Republic of Congo battalion now is deployed to Dungu in northeastern Congo, an area that has been affected by LRA operations, the official said, adding that Africom also is exploring ways to support South Sudan’s military.
The 100 U.S. personnel whose deployment the president announced today are going to regional capitals and other areas to work with governments, their militaries, and the peacekeeping missions in order for these forces to counter the LRA threat and protect civilians, the official said. This includes both military and nonmilitary personnel, he added, stressing that these U.S. troops will be working to advise and assist regional efforts, not acting independently.
The advisors will travel to field locations in the areas affected by the LRA where they can interact with and advise those forces that are actively pursuing the LRA, the official said, repeating that they will not be engaging in direct combat against the LRA.
The U.S. forces supporting this operation are primarily special operations forces who will work to build the capacity of the units they are working with, the Pentagon official said.
“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,” he continued, “Africans are responsible for African security, but we remain committed to our partners to enable their efforts to provide for their own security.”