Fighting a terror kingpin in Africa
Joseph Kony, leader of the rebel group the Lord?s Resistance Army that has been fighting a war against the Ugandan government for the past twenty years, makes a rare statement to the media during peace talks on August 1, 2006 on the Congo-Sudan border.
October 17th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Fighting a terror kingpin in Africa

Editor's Note: Daniel R. DePetris is an MA Candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, where he studies security issues.  He is an associate editor of The Maxwell Journal of Counterterrorism and Security Analysis.

By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN

Around one hundred American Special Forces troops are sitting in their barracks and preparing to start their tour of duty.  Sounds like a typical day in the life of a soldier whose country has been extensively engaged in overseas conflicts for the past ten years.  The only exception here is that the soldiers are getting ready to deploy to a region that has nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan, the two theaters of war that the U.S. military and its allies have grown the most accustomed too.  Rather, the area assigned to this small contingent is smack in the middle of the African continent, spread across four countries in the Sub-Sahara—Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.

The mission?  To provide assistance to the region’s governments in their fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious and inhumane insurgent group that has been terrorizing the region since its creation in 1987.  While an overt generalization, the group could perhaps be described as a small-time Christian version of Al’Qaeda led by Joseph Kony—a cult-like figure as equally delusional as the former AQ emir Osama bin-Laden.

This comparison may seem farfetched to some.  But to innocent Africans in the Sub-Sahara who have experienced the sharp edge of the LRA, it is a perfectly suitable parallel.  Much like the late bin Laden, Joseph Kony claims to speak to his subjects on the behalf of God.  Kony’s LRA group has no qualms about targeting civilians, whether it includes killing a bystander during an operation against the Ugandan Government or deliberately kidnapping a small child from his family—only to drug and brainwash him to join their cause.

Tens of thousands of men, women, and children have been murdered as a result of LRA rampages, which often include the razing of entire villages and the kidnapping of young girls and boys to refurbish its rank-and-file.  It is not uncommon for the girls who are abducted to be converted into sex slaves or forced into marriages with LRA fighters.  The boys who are snatched up have two choices, which are not really choices at all.  Either they fight to the death for Kony’s apocalyptic worldview, or they can expect to be executed and dumped into a mass grave filled with their victims.

Civil society organizations and international aid groups have long documented LRA abuse, with reports that are so disturbing (note of caution) that even people without a full heart feel queasy after reading them.

This is not the first time the United States has tried to weaken Kony.  In 2008, President George W. Bush sent a small team of counterterrorism advisors to Uganda in order to train the Ugandan military for an offensive against his cult.  President Bush personally authorized the order to assist the Ugandan and Congolese armed forces in the jungle dividing the two nations, where at the time it was believed the bulk of the LRA was holed up.  American military officials, packed with satellite technology and human assets on the ground, coordinated with both countries in the assault, which was such a dismal failure that by the time the armies reached their desired location, Kony and his band of animals were already long gone.

President Obama has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor when it comes to the anti-LRA campaign.  In May 2010, Obama signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 to reassure its Central African allies that Washington will help punish the LRA’s leadership for their butchery with technical intelligence and logistical assistance.  The deployment of 100 fully armed U.S. military advisors complements this effort, which the weak governments of Central Africa would like nothing more than to complete.

For President Obama, this is a smart move politically.  In addition to building up his portfolio as a president who takes humanitarian concerns seriously, sending U.S. military reinforcements to the region will demonstrate to America’s African allies how sincere the United States is in tracking down and eliminating one of the worst human rights violators in Africa’s contemporary history.  Pitching in may also help cement the U.S.-African counterterrorism relationship in the Horn of Africa, including an increase in possible African assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia (America’s Ugandan and Burundian partners have already been enormously helpful in defending Somalia’s weak transitional government).

The only plausible cost to Obama’s decision is the possibility of American casualties.  But with the U.S. advisory team armed with a clear mission statement and the weapons to back it up, any confusion that may result from the battlefield will be limited.

100 soldiers may not seem like a lot, but in Africa, it is quality that counts.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Daniel R. DePetris.

Post by:
Topics: Africa • Military • President Obama

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    I see that this idiot Barack Obama has gottern us into yet another war, this time in Africa. No wonder this country's going downhill in a hurry!! It seems that all the idiots in Washington can do is to get us into more of their useless wars. How repulsive!!!

    October 17, 2011 at 11:43 am | Reply
    • John

      Well put, Daniel. Too bad that most people don't have the sense to see that! Unfortunately, the right-wing media did a very good job at dumbing down the general public, sadly enough.

      October 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Reply
    • Chelsie

      Tell the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to Kony's militia that it is a useless war. Your ignorant response to this post is repulsive. Seems like you need to look into 'African' wars...Libya is an entirely different situation.

      October 18, 2011 at 9:03 am | Reply
    • Fareed

      Dude thats racist.

      January 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • Fareed

      And, you are an absolute idiot.

      January 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  2. Aaron


    October 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  3. John

    These guys are fighting for the Lord? Sounds like we should be rounding them up and sending them to Afghanistan to fight. Radical Christianity Vs. Radical Muslims. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

    October 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      The LRA is conducting a relligious cleansing in the religion. I doubt if there will be confrontations with the Muslims. They stay out of each other's territories and safeguard their spheres of influence.

      October 18, 2011 at 9:57 am | Reply
  4. Normal Person

    I think this is a good thing. Go in. Kill them all ASAP and then leave. But when we kill them, bring the total wrath of US military might down on their sorry asses. I mean, if it means clearing a two mile swath of the jungle, then so be it. Then leave and turn things back over to the people of the region. In fact put the Mothers of the area in charge of things. Give them hospitals and schools along with training. Any money has to be paided out by US personel for services rendered. That is it no more no less.

    October 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • Zachary McKinley

      Honestly I disagree with killing them... I think that Kony should be taken to trial, otherwise there's just not much deference between us and them. Most of the people in that area feel the same way. But definitely give the people the power, the schools etc. Organizations like Invisible Children have done an awesome job with that.

      October 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Reply
      • Chelsie

        I agree with your statement.There must be a judicial process for dealing with this type of crime...he should be sent to the ICC.

        October 18, 2011 at 9:32 am |
      • Orange

        If we take capture and take him to trial it will do nothing.
        The group will only declare him a martyr and continue the terrorizing of men women and children across the continent and hold hostages to secure his release.

        October 23, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  5. MazeAndBlue

    Amazing that this gang and it's leader will finally face their judgement.

    October 18, 2011 at 11:16 am | Reply
  6. Barbara Cornish

    People: I have lived over a half century on this planet, and I can tell you that it doesn't matter what religion is fighting to put their brand on another group, IT IS WRONG. Those of you who are Christian, read the bible again. Jesus would never condone this. He had a non-violent message. I worked in the law most of my life and I have always felt that countries should get behind the world court and give it teeth to really hold these barbarians and abusive leaders to account legally. If these people new there were real consequences, perhaps they would not start down the path of murder and atrocity toward their fellow citizens. Support the law, it was the way of Martin Luther King. Demonstrations yes to bring attention to the issue, but ultimately, in a civil society, and we all want to live in one, laws are the only way to hold individuals accountable for their actions.

    October 18, 2011 at 11:53 am | Reply
  7. Barbara

    Oops. should have read over my message before sending. I see I forgot the "k" in front of new. I really can spell.

    October 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  8. Peter

    There are thousands of hot spots like this all over the world, do we send troops to most of them? No. Did we sent troops to Yemen to wipe out AQ there? No.
    Yemen have no resources that we want. Uganda on the other hand have some sizeable oil supply. So is this mission purely humanitarian or is it beginning of another Iraq style conflict?

    October 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  9. Ayatollah Bear

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    October 19, 2011 at 5:35 am | Reply
  10. Thomas

    As much as Kony is the embodiment of evil, there are still reasons why we are in Uganda beyond humanitari­an ones (No, we are not invading). It's hardly conspirato­rial to link all of this back to Somalia, where the conflict could easily be characteri­zed as a proxy war with US interests and Ugandan men. Here"s an article from the Harvard Political review that discusses this: http://hpr­­/world/the­-art-of-mi­sdirection­-behind-tw­o-interven­tions-in-e­ast-africa­/

    October 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Reply
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