Saturday, October 15, 2011

Special Forces in Uganda

U.S. Special Forces Green Berets arrived in Uganda. The first wave of U.S. Special Forces Green Berets arrived in Uganda this week to support the battle against a guerrilla group accused of widespread atrocities, Pentagon and military officials told NBC News.

President Barack Obama has ordered up to 100 U.S. military trainers into central Africa to help combat the Lord's Resistance Army, a band of just 200 rebels behind a campaign of murder, rape and kidnapping that began 20 years ago.

Officials told NBC News on Friday the first dozen Green Berets were in Uganda and the remaining American trainers would be deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan .

In the president's notification to Congress on Friday, Obama said the U.S. forces were combat-equipped and would provide assistance and training to regional forces working to remove the group's leader, Joseph Kony, and his band from the battlefield.

U.S. military officials told NBC News that although the Lord's Resistance Army has a force of only about 200 rebels, they have managed to operate for decades because the African nations involved have not pursued them. The rebels' mobility and the terrain's difficulties also have made for a difficult fight. Attempts to negotiate peace failed in 2008 after Kony refused to sign a deal to end the killing.

U.S. officials told NBC News that the presence of American forces was intended, in part, to push the regional forces into taking action against the rebels. Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda 's military spokesman, said of the troops: "We are aware that they are coming. We are happy about it. We look forward to working with them and eliminating Kony and his fighters."

Fighting anti-insurgency

While the size of the U.S. footprint is small, Obama's announcement represents a highly unusual intervention for the United States. Although some American troops are based in Djibouti and small groups of soldiers have been deployed to Somalia, the U.S. traditionally has been reluctant to commit forces to help African nations put down insurgencies.

It demonstrates the Obama administration's escalating attention to and fears about security risks in Africa, including terror networks, piracy and unstable nations. The move was intended to show some engagement to lessen the impact of one of the worst protracted wars in Africa.

Obama declared that his decision to send troops was in keeping with the national security interests of the United States. The White House announced it in a low-key fashion, releasing the Obama notification and justification of the troop deployment that the president sent to congressional leaders.

Pentagon officials said the bulk of the deployment will be of special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units. Most of the troops will deploy to regional capitals to work with government officials and military commanders on countering the rebels and protecting civilians, Pentagon officials said. Pentagon spokesman George Little said U.S. troops would train local forces in activities such as tracking, intelligence assessment and conducting patrols "to render the LRA ineffective." The trainers "will be armed for self- defense," Little said.

American efforts to combat Lord's group also took place during the administration of President George W. Bush, The New York Times reported. The Bush Administration authorized the Pentagon to send a team of 17 counterterrorism advisers to train Ugandan troops and provided millions of dollars worth of aid, including fuel trucks, satellite phones and night-vision goggles, to the Ugandan Army. Those efforts scattered segments of the LRA in recent years; its remnants dispersed and regrouped in Uganda ’s neighbors, the Times said. In spring 2010, apparently desperate for new conscripts, Kony’s forces killed hundreds of villagers in the Congolese jungle and kidnapped hundreds more, according to witnesses interviewed at the time.

The move raises the profile of U.S. involvement on the continent and represents an apparent victory for administration officials who have argued for more robust intervention in humanitarian crises.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your Comments below. Keep it clean.