US forces head into Central African Republic

A pair of Air Force C-17 cargo planes accompanied by a small team of U.S. airmen are heading into the war-torn Central African Republic to support international peacekeeping operations there. 

The aircraft, attached to Central Command, are currently on station in Uganda but are expected to be on the ground in Burundi by Thursday, according to the Defense Department. 

Aside from the U.S. aircraft, an Air Force team is already on the ground in Burundi, tasked with coordinating logistics and transport for roughly 800 Burundian troops headed to the Central African Republic (CAR). 

Another American military team is already on the ground in CAR, assisting French and African Union forces secure the main airfield in the country's capitol of Bangui, according to a Pentagon spokesperson. 

Those American and Burundian troops will join the nearly 1,000 French troops on the ground, as part of the international peacekeeping force sent to the African country earlier this month. 

Two French soldiers were killed on Tuesday while conducting security and stability missions in CAR. 

Administration officials have set aside nearly $60 million for the U.S. airlift mission to CAR, which is expected to last roughly a week. 

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE directed U.S. commanders to assist in the operation after speaking Monday with French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian.

"The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic,” according to Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog. 

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 last week, resulting in roughly 400 people killed. 

On Monday, President Obama said rebel forces in the Central African Republic "must be held accountable -- in accordance with the law."

"As forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians," he added.