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AFRICOM could scale back counter-LRA mission in coming year

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 18, 2016

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Africa Command is reassessing its five-year manhunt for the African warlord Joseph Kony, whose ragtag band of fighters has dwindled to almost “insignificant levels,” said AFRICOM’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.

“We are at a point in time where we need to transition that mission,” Waldhauser said during a recent interview at his Kelley Barracks headquarters in Stuttgart.

The Pentagon has directed AFRICOM to review the ongoing campaign to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, which operates in jungle terrain in several central African countries. The LRA, which was notorious for abducting children to serve as soldiers, at one time commanded thousands of troops and posed a threat to Uganda’s government.

Over the years, however, the ranks have been reduced to perhaps a couple of hundred fighters, as many senior level LRA members have defected from the organization.

The U.S. counter-LRA operation comes with a steep price tag: roughly $100 million per year.

Waldhauser did not characterize the shape of the future mission in the region, but he signaled that it was likely to change because of the LRA’s diminished capacity.

“The number of fighters in that whole organization has gone way, way down to the point where it is almost (at) insignificant levels,” Waldhauser said.

In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered 100 U.S. special operations forces into central Africa to work alongside African Union troops, who are in charge of the hunt for Kony and other LRA members. The U.S. military has been a key part in that effort; U.S. special operations forces provided advisory support and intelligence and logistical aid.

The move was in response to a push by Congress for the U.S. to help capture Kony, whose history of enslaving children provoked outrage. The effort was galvanized by a 2012 social media campaign by the advocacy group, Invisible Children, which went viral and brought global attention to LRA atrocities.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
 

AFRICOM's commander Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser says U.S. forces are tracking Islamic State fighters who have fled the battle in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte. "What we don't want them to do is re-emerge," Waldhauser said Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, during an interview in Stuttgart, Germany.
U.S. AFRICA COMMAND

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