US sends troops to Uganda; Human Rights Watch approves
US troops have been deployed to back up the forces of Uganda and neighboring nations to fight the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), in what authorities hope will be a final offensive to crush the notoriously brutal guerilla group, known for its campaigns of killing, rape, and use of child soldiers over the past two decades. US troops are landing in Uganda and from there may deploy to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and southern Sudan, where the LRA's scattered force of some 400 is also operating. The US troops are combat-ready and have instructions to fight if attacked, but Pentagon spokesman Cpt. John Kirby said their mission is limited to helping Ugandan and other regional forces crush the LRA.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been pushing for US intervention against the LRA. HRW executive director Kenneth Roth told National Public Radio:
We are hearing from residents of northern Democratic Republic of Congo. These are just local villagers who live in the area that has been ravaged by the Lord's Resistance Army, and they are pleading to President Obama to do something to help them. The Lord's Resistance Army is really one of the most brutal, vicious forces around. And it exists by essentially approaching a village, killing as many adults as it can find and then kidnapping the children, some just shockingly young, and forcing the boys to become child soldiers and the girls, in essence, to become so-called bush wives. It is just creating havoc in this part of the world, but the area is so remote that most people have no idea that it's going on.
Another Washington-based human rights group, Resolve, updates its online Crisis Tracker in real time with information on LRA attacks from the UN, partner organizations and a field radio network. A video on the group's website features one female victim of the violence saying: "I want President Obama to end this war. We do not know why we are being killed without any cause."
However, the intervention advocates have voiced some caveats. HRW's Washington advocacy director Tom Malinowski warned: "If you provoke the hornets in the hornets' nest without effectively removing them from the forest or the battlefield, they tend to strike out even more viciously. So that's the dilemma." He recalled that the US backed up another regional campaign against the LRA in 2008. But that mission failed to capture warlord Joseph Kony or his commanders, resulting in retaliatory attacks against civilians. (VOA, Oct. 19; VOA, Oct. 18; NPR, Oct. 17)
As human rights groups back the intervention, voices on the political right in the US are opposing it. Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily thinks the whole thing was instrumented by George Soros to protect his oil investments in Central Africa. Michelle Malkin writes with apparent skepticism that "President Obama just announced he's sending US troops to central Africa to fight something called 'the Lord's Resistance Army.'"