The Pentagon could be in a race to prevent a major rebel attack on African civilians, aid groups believe. That’s one disturbing possibility behind President Barack Obama’s announcement of a new U.S. military mission to Central Africa.
On Friday, Obama informed Congress of the deployment of around 100 “combat-equipped” U.S. troops to help the Ugandan army track down rebel leader Joseph Kony and his cultish Lord’s Resistance Army, currently hiding out somewhere in South Sudan, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and southern Central African Republic. The first group of Americans is already on the ground in Uganda.
Obama’s announcement raised more questions than it answered. The U.S. has been quietly involved in the war on the LRA for several years, even helping the Ugandans plan a 2009 raid that missed Kony and sparked a bloody LRA reprisal. So why make such a big deal out of the latest effort? Could the new deployment represent the beginning of another U.S. “shadow war” waged by commandos and killer drones?
And why now? The LRA has been raping and pillaging across Central Africa for 20 years. What, besides a widely-ignored 2010 law, compelled Washington to try again to defeat the group?