By Justin Sink
President Obama said Friday that he is sending 100 U.S. troops to Uganda to aid in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, a band of rebels in central Africa accused of murder, rape, and kidnap during their 20-year fight against Ugandan security forces.
Obama said that the primary mission of the troops would be aiding Ugandan forces in removing Joseph Kony, head of the guerrilla group, from the battlefield. Kony has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court, including murder, sexual enslavement, cruel treatment of civilians, and the forced enlistment of children into rebel ranks. The LRA has continued to pillage the region even after the Ugandan civil war ended in 2006 after a peace process was brokered.
"The support provided by U.S. forces will enhance regional efforts against the LRA," Obama wrote. "However, although the 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."
An initial team of troops deployed to Africa on Wednesday, with a second combat-equipped team and logistics personnel to follow later this month. The United States has provided support to regional forces fighting the LRA since 2008, but Obama said those efforts have proven futile.
"Even with some limited U.S. assistance, however, regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in removing LRA leader Joseph Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield," Obama wrote.
A bill authorizing Obama to aid Uganda in stopping Kony passed unanimously in the Senate in March and unanimously in the House in May.