White House keeping troops in Africa to hunt down Joseph Kony

The 100 U.S. military advisers deployed to Uganda to help track down African warlord Joseph Kony will continue their mission, President Obama announced Monday.

Speaking at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony Monday, Obama listed Kony as one of the perpetrators of human-rights abuses his administration is trying to root out. Kony is accused of mass atrocities against children in Uganda and other countries in the region as head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since the 1980s.

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“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,” Obama said.

The White House first announced in October 2011 that Obama was sending about 100 special operations troops to Uganda to act as military advisers helping Ugandan forces hunt down Kony. Following a scheduled review of the mission after 150 days, Obama said Monday that the advisers would continue to look for Kony’s trail.

The hunt for Kony was bolstered in the United States last month after the 30-minute film “Kony 2012” went viral. The video, produced by the nonprofit Invisible Children, now has more than 88 million hits on YouTube.

A group of senators launched its own video last week about Kony and the legislative efforts they’ve undertaken. A resolution sponsored by Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) condemning Kony has 43 co-sponsors, and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill last week that would increase the State Department’s reward program for those accused of war crimes like Kony.

The LRA is believed to have left Uganda and have only about 200 members remaining.

A senior Pentagon official told a House committee in October that the U.S. effort to capture Kony "will not be an open-ended commitment."

Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told reporters Monday that the U.S. presence in Africa is to advice and assist local forces, not engage with the LRA.

He declined to comment on whether U.S. troops have engaged with LRA forces alongside their counterparts in the Ugandan military. U.S. forces “are not there in a combat role,” he said.

"They have had a significant impact" in putting pressure on Kony and LRA operations in Africa, Kirby said. "He and his followers have been less active" as a result. 

This post was updated at 1:32 p.m.