Since 2011, approximately 100 U.S. military advisors have become integral to the operations to weaken the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and capture its leader, Joseph Kony. A new report by the Enough Project, “Completing the Mission: U.S. Special Forces Are Essential for Ending the LRA,” applauds the Obama administration's extension of the U.S. advisor mission into early 2014, examines the impact of U.S. advisors to the counter-LRA operations, and makes the case for maintaining the role of U.S. advisors in Uganda and the surrounding region until the capture of Kony.
The U.S. advisors in Central Africa work as a partner to the African Union Regional Task Force, or A.U.-RTF, which is led by the Ugandan army and includes regional A.U. forces from South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. advisors improve the A.U.-RTF’s counter-LRA operations by providing military training, logistical support, and advanced technology. This framework has proven successful with LRA attacks dropping 53 percent over the past 2 years, LRA killings decreasing by 67 percent from 2011 to 2012, and 15 percent of the core fighting force defecting over the past 18 months.
However, some U.S. policymakers have considered withdrawing U.S. advisors from the field and transitioning to a conventional training mission. Obama’s decisions to continue the existing hands-on operational support and to extend the current mission into early 2014 demonstrate his commitment to an atrocity prevention strategy. The American support has significantly weakened the LRA’s strength and increased security in the region, allowing local communities to feel safe from violence. Beyond the immediate scope of the counter-LRA operation, the U.S. advisors’ partnership with the Ugandan army and other African partner forces provides a model for regional security cooperation and strategic U.S. support within and outside Africa.
Although the LRA has been considerably weakened, the LRA’s core senior-command structure remains intact and maintains the capability to regroup, rebuild, and sustain its operations. A senior official in the Obama administration acknowledged that,
“As long as the LRA’s leader Joseph Kony and other top commanders remain at large, the LRA will continue to pose a serious regional threat which undermines stability and development.”
American support is integral to Uganda’s decade-long commitment to eliminating the LRA, as well as to enhancing regional security in an area that would otherwise become a safe haven for terrorists. The Enough report urges the U.S. to continue its commitment to supporting the counter-LRA mission until Kony and other senior LRA commanders are apprehended.
This report outlines key recommendations for maintaining U.S. involvement:
The Obama administration should support the U.S. military advisors’ mission until Joseph Kony and other senior LRA commanders are apprehended
U.S. advisors and their military and civilian partners should increase their support for programs that promote LRA defections
U.S. advisors and their military and civilian partners should pursue direct communication with senior and mid-level LRA commanders to spur defections
U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold should increase diplomatic pressure on regional states and urge the governments to facilitate access to all areas where the LRA is hiding
The U.S., European Union, and other international donors should provide financial and logistical support to fully operationalize the A.U.-RTF mission and create a Special Forces Elite Unit