Thursday, February 23, 2012

US Troops in Central, East Africa

US Troops in Central, East Africa

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 4:11 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya — U.S. troops helping in the fight against the brutal rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are deployed in four Central African countries, the top U.S. special-operations commander for Africa said Wednesday.

The U.S. said in October it was sending about 100 U.S. troops — mostly special-operations forces — to Central Africa to advise in the fight against the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Rear Adm. Brian Losey, the top U.S. special-operations commander for Africa, said the U.S. troops are stationed at bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.

"We've already seen a decrease in the lethality of LRA activities, which we think is attributable in part to the pressure we and our partners are applying," Losey said in a telephone briefing.

The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when Kony sought to overthrow the government. Since being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the militia has terrorized villages in Central Africa.

Many of the U.S. forces are stationed in Uganda. Others are based in Obo, Central African Republic; Dungu, Congo; and in Nzara, South Sudan, Losey said. Each of those locations had established bases where troops from partner countries have been based.

The LRA operates in an area the size of California, Losey said.

A top State Department official, Karl Wycoff, said Kony has shown the ability to mobilize combatants and militant leaders to carry out "horrible atrocities" for the LRA, which he called "some kind of cult," given that the group has no clear agenda. He said the U.S. effort was not just aimed at Kony but at all the LRA leaders.

The LRA's tactics have been widely condemned as vicious. The U.S. troops are helping to fight a group that has slaughtered thousands of civilians and routinely kidnaps children to be child soldiers and sex slaves.

The anti-LRA group Resolve in a report released Wednesday urged the U.S. to encourage Uganda to dedicate more troops and helicopters to counter-LRA operations. The group also urged the U.S. to pay for more transport helicopters and improved communications equipment for Ugandan troops, and to increase intelligence gathering by expanding the use of aerial surveillance.

Losey said there are no drone aircraft being used by U.S. troops involved in the counter-LRA fight.

"Other than Kony, the only other person who had the capacity to sustain the LRA was (Vincent) Otti, who is gone," said Col. Felix Kulayigye, spokesman for Uganda's military. "Kony is the LRA and the LRA is Kony. You get Kony and you have the LRA done."

Otti, Kony's former deputy, has been presumed dead since the failure of peace talks ended in 2008. Ugandan army officials say Kony ordered his death, fearing he was about to defect.

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