My thought on hearing “armed humanitarian mission” was: Would this be the precedent for military deployments in the post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan world?
Bellamy was speaking at a U.S. Institute of Peace (IOP) event about efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony. For 25 years, Kony has terrorized a wide area of Central Africa where three countries come together. His group’s killing, looting and kidnapping of young boys and forcing them to fight have continued despite sporadic efforts to capture him by Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic.
In all, the LRA has abducted 66,000 youth, some forced “to become child soldiers or sex slaves and ordered to commit unspeakable acts,” according to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who also spoke at the IOP event.
The United Nations has estimated that about 440,000 Africans have been displaced by LRA activities, and while the group’s leadership and core believers have been reduced to nearly 150, they still carried out 250 attacks this year, Carson said.
According to the Ugandan press, dozens of the U.S. Special Forces troops have established a frontline base in Obo, a town in southeastern Central African Republic, to help the regional armies track down Kony and other LRA leaders. The forward-based personnel are there to help with intelligence, communications and logistics operations. They are to fight only in self-defense.
Most people are unaware that President Obama’s Oct. 14 announcement of the Special Forces deployment was done in accordance with a bill that Congress passed in 2009 and was signed into law in 2010. It required the administration to plan and coordinate “diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military elements of United States policy across the region regarding the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
In fact, the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill now before Congress calls for providing “logistic support, supplies, and services and intelligence support” for Ugandan and other forces “participating in operations to mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.” The legislation authorizes $35 million in 2012 and 2013 to cover the costs.
According to a Nov. 21 Congressional Research Service report, the Special Forces unit will cost an additional $4.5 million a month. That figure is on top of U.S. liaison officers from Africa Command dispatched in July 2011 to “to assist host government officials and military commanders who are working to counter the LRA,” the service wrote.