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Why send U.S. troops to Uganda?
Finishing off Lord’s Resistance Army could help quell terrorists in Somalia
NAIROBI, KENYA | Why is the U.S. sending its troops to finish off a fractured band of bush fighters in the middle of Africa?
President Obama announced Friday that he was dispatching about 100 U.S. troops - mostly special operations forces - to central Africa to advise in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army - a guerrilla group accused of widespread atrocities across several countries. The first U.S. troops arrived last week.
The rebels are at their weakest point in 15 years. Their forces are fractured and scattered, and the Ugandan military estimated this year that only 200 to 400 fighters remain.
In 2003, the LRA had 3,000 armed troops and 2,000 people in support roles.
Capturing LRA leader Joseph Kony - a ruthless and brutal thug - remains the highest priority for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a 25-year leader who has committed thousands of troops to the African Union force in Somalia to fight militants from al-Shabab, a group with ties from al Qaeda.
The U.S. has not had forces in Somalia since pulling out shortly after the 1993 Black Hawk Down battle in Mogadishu in which 18 American troops died.
“I’ve been hearing that. I don’t know if our group necessarily agrees with that, but it definitely would make sense,” said Matt Brown, a spokesman for the Enough Project, a U.S. group working to end genocide and crimes against humanity, especially in central Africa.
“The U.S. doesn’t have to fight al Qaeda-linked Shabab in Somalia, so we help Uganda take care of their domestic security problems, freeing them up to fight a more dangerous - or a more pressing, perhaps - issue in Somalia. I don’t know if we would necessarily say that, but it’s surely a plausible theory,” Mr. Brown said.
Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s military spokesman, has told the Associated Press that Ugandan forces have long received “invaluable” support from the U.S. military, including intelligence sharing, in the fight against the LRA.
That support got a huge boost last week.
Though the deployment of 100 troops is relatively small, it could mark a sea-change for Washington in overcoming its reluctance to commit troops to Africa. Even the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military operations on the continent, is based in Germany.
The U.S. maintains a base in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti, but most troops there are not on combat missions.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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