By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2012 – President Barack Obama today announced a strategy to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to genocide and mass atrocities, and extended U.S. troops’ efforts to do just that in Central Africa.
During a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum here, Obama said preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility for the United States.
“That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there's an injustice in the world,” the president said. “We cannot and should not. It does mean we possess many tools, diplomatic and political and economic and financial and intelligence and law enforcement, and our moral suasion.”
Obama’s strategy calls for the Defense Department to develop doctrine and increase training and planning efforts emphasizing mass atrocity prevention and response.
Obama announced the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board, which will include Defense Department representatives as well as those from the departments of State, Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security; the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the office of the director of National Intelligence, the CIA, and the office of the vice president, according to White House officials.
The board will help identify and address atrocity threats, and will oversee institutional changes to make the U.S. government “more nimble and effective” is response to such threats, administration officials said.
The strategy also increases diplomatic and intelligence efforts to identify and respond to atrocities, they said.
Obama said the United States over the past three years has helped to counter mass atrocities in Libya, South Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire.
The military mission to help counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, a terrorist group in central Africa led by Joseph Kony, demonstrated how U.S. forces can support national and international efforts to quell atrocities, Obama said.
About a hundred U.S. military advisors, mostly from the Army’s Special Forces, have been working since October with the militaries of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to capture or kill Kony and other LRA commanders under an Obama executive order.
When he announced that mission, the president directed the National Security Council to review its progress after 150 days.
Today, Obama said, “I can announce that our advisers will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice and to save lives. It is part of our regional strategy … to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.”
The LRA is composed mostly of kidnapped children forced to execute Kony’s terrorist tactics over the past 20 years, administration officials have said. Tens of thousands of people have been murdered and as many as 1.8 million have been displaced by the LRA, they said.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters today the U.S. advisors in central Africa have had “a significant impact … improving the capabilities of indigenous forces there to put pressure on the LRA.”
The advisors’ role, Kirby emphasized, is training and assistance, not combat. He added that the U.S. assistance is helping.
“We’ve seen indications that [Kony] and his followers are less active and less effective,” he said.