In a somewhat surprising move, President Obama has decided to send about 100 U.S. troops to Central Africa to assist — in an advisory role only — in fighting the brutal guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and killing or capturing its leader, Joseph Kony, charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court for his decades-long war against civilians in Uganda and its neighboring countries.
The LRA, under Kony since the 1990s, claims to be fighting a holy war in Uganda and seeks to replace the current government with one guided by the Ten Commandments. According to UNICEF, as of 2005, the LRA has taken more than 20,000 children as soldiers and sex slaves, and has driven hundreds of thousands from their homes and into community camps where violence, disease, and malnutrition have killed thousands.
Joseph Kony in 2006
The U.S., though long concerned with this particular conflict, had previously taken smaller steps of assistance. Under President George W. Bush, the Pentagon sent 17 counterterrorism advisers to train Ugandan troops, and provided millions of dollars worth of aid. In May 2010, Obama signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, and in June 2011 the Pentagon moved to send over $40 million in military equipment to Uganda and Burundi.
President Obama’s move to increase Washington’s support for the war-torn region of Central Africa has been lauded by some as a positive foreign policy move. And while the troops can very well do a lot of good for the people of the region, the president would be wise to clearly define the mission from the start. Not doing so could result in a mission creep, as seems to currently be the case in Libya.