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“Washington cannot afford to be so timid about engaging in or treating the DRC as a second- or third-order priority,” agreed Chester A. Crocker, a former assistant secretary of state for Africa and a professor of strategic studies at Georgetown University, in a policy report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

After Mrs. Clinton’s visit, his opinion was much more favorable. “We now have in office an administration that recognizes the central importance of the DRC,” he told The Washington Times. It is “an important change.”

U.S. policy in the past has rested largely on supporting Rwandan and Congolese military operations to stabilize eastern Congo,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, which targets genocide and crimes against humanity.

“We must evolve from a whack-a-mole strategy against the FDLR,” he said, referring to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, one of Congo’s violent militia groups. “There needs to be a more comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy.”

He said people who have committed war crimes are being allowed to join the Congolese national army and that a vetting system should be created to screen out former rebels.

The Obama administration and the United Nations support such vetting mechanisms and better discipline in the army. However, neither have much control over how the army recruits and retains personnel.

The U.S. also advocates better relations between Congo and neighboring Uganda and Rwanda to coordinate the capture of rebels, especially members of the FDLR.

“The military needs professionalizing,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters accompanying her on her trip.

She said Congo’s neighbors must cooperate to end the violence and the exploitation of Congolese minerals that is “basically funding a lot of these militias that are keeping the fighting going, along with all the attendant human rights abuses.”