US President Barack Obama said Friday he is sending 100 "combat-equipped" troops to Uganda to help and advise forces battling Lord's Resistance Army rebels accused of grievous human rights abuses.
The US troops, subject to the approval of national authorities, could also deploy from Uganda into South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo, Obama said in a message to Congress.
LRA rebels are accused of terrorizing, murdering, raping and kidnapping thousands of people in the four nations, and tens of thousands of people died in their 20-year war with security forces in northern Uganda.
"These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA," Obama said, but warned they would not lead the fighting themselves.
"Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces.
"They will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of US military personnel during their deployment."
According to AFP, the president said a small group of troops deployed on Wednesday and that additional forces will deploy over the next month.
Kony, accused of war crimes and wanted by the International Criminal Court, appears to have dropped any national political agenda and in recent years his marauding troops have sown death and destruction in the region.
The civil war effectively ended in 2006 when a peace process was launched, but Kony and his top commanders continue to commit atrocities in remote areas of neighboring countries.
General Carter Ham, the head of US Africa Command, said last week that his best estimate was that Kony was probably in the Central African Republic
An Excerpt from the letter President Obama Sent to the Congressional Leaders
For more than two decades, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa. The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security. ...
In furtherance of the Congress's stated policy, I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield. I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.
On October 12, the initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda.
During the next month, additional forces will deploy, including a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications, and logistics personnel. The total number of U.S. military personnel deploying for this mission is approximately 100.
These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA. Our forces will provide information, advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces.
Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The support provided by U.S. forces will enhance regional efforts against the LRA. However, although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.
Obama sends 100 US troops to Uganda to fight LRA