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Pentagon: US Interested in Helping Uganda Eliminate Threat of Lord's Resistance Army - 2004-04-02

The senior American commander in charge of military operations in sub-Saharan Africa says the United States is interested in helping Uganda eliminate the threat posed by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

General Charles Wald will not say whether the United States is providing Uganda with intelligence information or other secret support to assist its forces in their long-running battle with Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

But in a VOA interview at the Pentagon, General Wald makes clear U.S. officials are interested in helping Uganda eliminate the threat posed by the rebel leader and his fighters. Denouncing the rebels' practice of abducting children, he says Mr. Kony deserves to be either killed or captured.

"We are interested in helping Uganda against Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army leader, if you want to call him that, that's a loose term," he said. "We think he's a criminal. He's more than that. He qualifies in the category, I guess you could put him in the terrorism category although he's not officially that, but what he's doing with young people in Uganda definitely deserves international attention and he deserves to be put away."

General Wald, a four star Air Force General who has made repeated trips to Africa, says a successful operation against the Lord's Resistance Army leader will send a powerful message throughout the continent.

"He [Kony] going away will do a couple of things: one, it shows the world we're not going to put up with people like that, you just can't operate with impunity, and, two, that there won't be ungoverned areas where people can find this haven so we're interested in helping Uganda," said Gen. Wald.

Although General Wald would not comment on the extent of U.S. support for Ugandan forces, there have been persistent reports that the Pentagon is giving authorities in Kampala aerial and other electronic surveillance data to assist in the hunt for the rebels.

The United States suspended its military aid programs to Uganda in 2000 as a result of Uganda's incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But following the withdrawal of Ugandan forces in June of last year, U.S. officials announced the resumption of what they described as a limited program of non-lethal military assistance.

In a recent interview, the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Jimmy Kolker said the resumed aid has consisted mainly of trucks and radios along with training. He said its total value was some $2 million. He dismissed reports of greater U.S. military assistance as "grotesquely exaggerated."