News / Africa

US Officials Expect Troops to Stay in Uganda for 'Months'

A U.S. House of Representatives panel heard testimony Tuesday on President Barack Obama's decision to deploy 100 troops to Central Africa to help the forces of Uganda and other countries fight the Lord Resistance Army, or LRA.

Most of the lawmakers at the hearing expressed support for the mission to help to end the LRA's campaign of murder, rape and forcing children to be soldiers, but some representatives questioned the cost and duration of the mission.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

The Chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, are responsible for one of the longest and most violent, yet most under-reported, conflicts in Africa, spanning two decades and spreading from Uganda to South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to the Central African Republic.

“The LRA makes no attempt to hold territories, but murders, mutilates, tortures, rapes and loots with impunity," Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen said the LRA moves in small groups and strikes remote villages, slaughtering civilians, abducting women and children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves. It has been estimated that more than 80 percent of the LRA is made up of abducted children, which makes efforts to eradicate the group more complex.

The two witnesses at the hearing fielded questions from lawmakers about the goals, the estimated cost, the scope and the duration of the U.S. mission.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Alexander Vershbow, said local forces have weakened the LRA to about 200 core fighters and a total of 800. He said the 100 U.S. troops, many of them special operations forces, would help Ugandan forces track down the LRA's leaders.

"While weakened, LRA leader Joseph Kony and other top commanders remain at large, and they continue to direct the groups' members to commit unspeakable atrocities."

Because many LRA fighters are conscripted children, U.S. troops will also help local forces and officials try to convince many of the fighters to defect," said Vershbow.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto, testified before the committee. "We will continue to work on the LRA fighters to peacefully disarm and leave the organization ranks and to come home, and currently there are about 12,000 [who] have done so," Yamamoto said.

Assistant Defense Secretary Vershbow reassured lawmakers that U.S. forces would not seek to engage LRA fighters in combat. "To be clear, U.S. forces deploying for this mission will not themselves engage LRA forces.  But given the potential need to defend themselves, they will be equipped for combat," he added.

Vershbow said there is no definite timeline for the U.S. deployment, but he estimated that it would be "months" and said it would not be open-ended. He said U.S. troops would mainly  advise Ugandan forces on how to gather and use intelligence more effectively to track down Kony and his commanders.

Some of the lawmakers said they support the mission, but added they were dismayed that Vershbow and Yamamoto did not have a cost estimate for the mission.

Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California said, "The cost is really an important factor because the United States cannot afford to pay the price to win everyone's else's freedom in the world."

The United States sees Uganda as a solid partner in the region, especially in peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.  Some analysts say the decision to deploy 100 U.S. special forces is a small investment that could yield big rewards.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs