The U.S. is sending 150 Air Force special operations personnel to central Africa this week — more than doubling the number of American troops on the ground who are assisting in the search for infamous Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, The Washington Post reports.
Also heading there: at least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft that can ferry troops long distances and “are equipped with .50-caliber machine guns for self-defense,” the Post says.
Kony, as we’ve reported over the past two years and as NPR’s Michele Kelemen puts it, “has been terrorizing Uganda and surrounding nations for decades.” Although his Lord’s Resistance Army is thought to have only a couple hundred fighters, it is known for its brutal attacks on civilians and for turning young captives into child soldiers. Kony is wanted by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court for his tiny army’s “brutalization of civilians by acts including murder, abduction, sexual enslavement [and] mutilation.”
In early 2012, the activist group Invisible Children used YouTube, Twitter and other savvy marketing tools aimed at American teens and college students to turn Kony and the atrocities he’s accused of committing into a social cause in the U.S. and other nations.
The organization’s “Kony 2012” video has now been viewed more than 99 million times.
President Obama first sent about 100 U.S. troops to assist in the search in October 2011. Those forces and the additional troops can defend themselves but are primarily there to advise and assist African Union forces. The search area includes parts of Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo.
As the Post says, Kony’s army “poses no threat to the United States, but the administration sees assistance to the [African Union] mission as a useful way to build military and political partnerships with African governments in a region where al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations are rapidly expanding, as well as to demonstrate adherence to human rights principles.”