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STUTTGART, Germany — President Barack Obama submitted to Congress on Wednesday his plan for dismantling the Lord’s Resistance Army, a notorious African rebel group known for filling its ranks with abducted child soldiers.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that required Obama to form a strategy for disarming the LRA and capturing its leader, Joseph Kony, who has operated in remote jungle terrain of central Africa for the past 20 years.

Obama’s plan includes four main objectives aimed at supporting ongoing regional efforts to counter the LRA. The objectives are: increase protection of civilians; remove Kony from the battlefield; promote efforts to reintegrate remaining LRA fighters into society; and increase humanitarian access to the region and provide continued relief to affected communities.

In a prepared statement, Obama, who stopped short of outlining the role of the U.S. military in the new strategy, said the plan provides a framework for the coordination of U.S. efforts.

He said it provides the “political, economic, military and intelligence support” needed to address the LRA threat, and relies on the involvement of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the intelligence community. “All will remain engaged throughout implementation,” Obama said.

Humanitarian groups, which have been vocal about the need for greater U.S. engagement in the effort to eliminate the LRA, praised the plan and urged the president to move swiftly to implement the strategy.

“[T]he challenge now is to turn this piece of paper into improvements on the ground,” said Paul Rona of Resolve, an activist group focused on creating more awareness of LRA. “The president should seek a significant boost in resources in his FY 2012 budget request to address this crisis, and then designate a senior State Department official to oversee the strategy’s implementation.”

During the past two years, human rights groups say the LRA has killed at least 2,300 people and abducted more than 3,000 others, including many children. An additional 400,000 civilians have fled the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan and Central African Republic.

“The LRA attacks are a huge threat to civilians and to regional peace and stability,” said Monica Serrano, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. “The international response has been woefully inadequate. The new U.S. strategy is a chance to bring countries together to end the LRA’s brutal reign, putting the protection of civilians at the heart of the effort.”

vandiverj@estripes.osd.mil

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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