The Pentagon is accelerating its support mission for a French-led peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic, sending in additional aircraft and equipment into the beleaguered African nation.
U.S. commanders ordered another Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft, loaded with a heavy-duty utility truck, an armored personnel carrier, and six pallets of supplies and equipment bound for the African country, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday.
Hagel directed U.S. commanders to assist in the operation after speaking with French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian.
Paris launched the peacekeeping operation after violence in the African nation between Muslim rebels and the Christian-controlled government. Rebels battled their way into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, last week, resulting in roughly 400 people killed.
Aside from the equipment, more than 160 American personnel are expected to be on the ground in the Central African Republic (CAR) by the end of the week, Warren told reporters at the Pentagon.
Administration officials have set aside nearly $60 million for the U.S. airlift mission to the CAR, which is expected to last roughly a week.
The U.S. personnel aboard the C-17 ordered into the CAR on Monday will join Air Force security and support teams there and in Burundi.
The team in Burundi has been tasked with coordinating logistics and transport for roughly 800 Burundian troops headed to CAR.
The Air Force team already in country are assisting French and African Union forces to secure the main airfield in the country's capitol of Bangui, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.
Nearly 1,000 French troops on the ground, as part of the international peacekeeping force sent to the African country earlier this month.
President Obama said rebel forces in the Central African Republic "must be held accountable — in accordance with the law," according to a White House statement.
"As forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians," Obama added.