Well, the President is sending about 100 “combat equipped” U.S. troops to Uganda to help local government forces hunt down and ‘remove’ Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The LRA is a rebel group that has terrorized the African countryside for years, murdering, raping and kidnapping thousands of civilians. Like countless other African “resistance” armies, the LRA specializes in abducting kids and forcing them into service as child soldiers. Needless to say, he’s a bad dude at the head of a bad organization. The first U.S. troops apparently arrived in Uganda on Oct. 12 and more will follow in the coming weeks, according to an Oct. 14 letter sent from the White House to Congress.
In addition to Uganda, U.S. forces have permission from South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to operate on their territory while helping to hunt down the LRA.
The troops are likely special operations forces and their low numbers reflect the U.S.’ desire to avoid the appearance of neo-colonialism on the continent. The Pentagon routinely deploys forces to Africa to train local militaries (the photo above shows an Army Green Beret training Malian counter-terror troops). They’re usually sent in small numbers and are special ops troops, often dressed as civilians, who are trained in local languages and customs. Don’t forget all the combat equipped troops who live at Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. Still, it’s very rare to hear about U.S. forces actively hunting bad guys in Africa. Even when we go after pirates and terrorists in Somalia we usually do it with AC-130 gunships and UAVs. If Americans to hit the ground its usually for the few minutes or hours it takes to kill or capture one of these guys.
In this case, the troops will be directly assisting with a manhunt despite the fact that the White House says they won’t be “engaging” in combat with LRA forces, unless of course, the LRA forces shoot first.
“Although 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,” reads the letter.
Click through the jump to read a copy of the letter: