Obama Sending Troops to Aid Africa Anti-Insurgency

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 15, 2011 | Go to article overview

Obama Sending Troops to Aid Africa Anti-Insurgency


Byline: Mark S. Smith and Bradley Klapper Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Intervening in a volatile and brutal crisis, President Barack Obama said Friday he has dispatched 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to support a years-long fight against a guerrilla group accused of horrific atrocities.

Obama said they were sent to advise, not engage in combat, unless forced to defend themselves.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said the troops will act as advisers in a long-running battle against the Lord's Resistance Army, considered one of Africa's most ruthless rebel groups, and help to hunt down its notorious leader, Joseph Kony.

The first of the troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday, the White House said, and others will be sent to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While the size of the U.S. footprint is small, Obama's announcement represents a highly unusual intervention for the United States. Although some American troops are based in Djibouti and small groups of soldiers have been deployed to Somalia, the U.S. traditionally has been reluctant to commit forces to help African nations put down insurgencies.

It demonstrates the Obama administration's escalating attention to and fears about security risks in Africa, including terror networks, piracy and unstable nations. The move was intended to show some engagement to lessen the impact of one of the worst protracted wars in Africa.

Obama declared his decision to send troops as in keeping with the national security interests of the United States. The White House announced it in a low-key fashion, releasing the Obama notification and justification of the troop deployment that the president sent to congressional leaders.

There are and have been other U.S. forces in Uganda in the past and that will likely continue during and after this mission. The numbers have fluctuated, based on requirements, but generally there have been fewer than 100 troops.

Pentagon officials said the bulk of the fresh deployment will be of special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units. The move raises the profile of U.S. involvement on the continent -- and represents an apparent victory for administration officials who have argued for more robust intervention in humanitarian crises.

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