The United States military is joining efforts to help build the newly independent nation of South Sudan.
U.S. Defense officials say they are dispatching five officers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Marines starting January 13 on the orders of President Barack Obama.
South Sudan gained independence last July and has been hit by outbreaks of internal violence, with groups battling one another along ethnic and political lines.
U.S. officials say the military officers have been assigned to a U.N. mission and will engage in what the Pentagon says are peace operations.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said the officers will not be involved in combat.
“The mission is really to help as South Sudan begins to stand itself up - to help with governance, rule of law and civil affairs. And that’s what these five individuals are experts at, those kinds of things: logistics, civil affairs. And right now, that’s the limit of the involvement of these five individuals,” said Kirby.
Kirby said the mission could change over time.
The decision to send officers follows a White House memorandum last week to send weapons and defense aid to South Sudan.
In addition to internal violence, the new nation has seen rising tensions on its border with Sudan. The two countries have yet to settle a dispute on sharing oil resources in the region.
The United States has been boosting its military assistance to Africa in recent months. In October, Obama announced the deployment of about 100 troops to Uganda and other parts of Central Africa to help armies in the region battle the Lord’s Resistance Army guerrilla group.