By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
President Obama’s decision to send 100 troops, mainly U.S. Special Forces, to Uganda to help hunt down leaders of the violent Lord’s Resistance Army is not meant to be a combat mission. But the troops will be well equipped if the need to fight arises, them CNN has learned. The troops will have so-called “crew-served” weapons in the field. These weapons, unlike a rifle or machine gun, requires more than one person to operate them, such as one person loading ammunition while the other person aims and fires.
The deployment of these particular combat weapons triggered the need for the Obama administration to publicly notify Congress of the operation under the War Powers Resolution, according to a Department of defense official. That requirement demands that any time troops are put into a country “equipped for combat” Congress must be told to avoid any prospect of a secret war, the official explained.
Also, in this case, the US trainers were given a specific mission of helping target Joseph Kony, the head of the Lords Resistance Army, rather than just generalized counterterrorism and field training.
The official confirmed that Uganda had asked for the troops several months ago, but no Special Forces unit was available until now.
The US military has had a longstanding relationship in helping train Ugandan forces and attempting to help target Kony. In December 2008, a 17-man team of military advisors and intelligence advisors from the U.S. Africa Command helped plan and provide intelligence to go after Kony, according to a US military official. That mission failed after two weeks.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona on Sunday questioned the president’s recent order to send American troops to central Africa, saying the move could put the United States on a slippery slope.
“I worry about, with the best of intentions, that we somehow get engaged in a commitment that we can't get out of,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
This week, President Barack Obama ordered about 100 U.S. military personnel to aid in the hunt and removal of Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, better known as the “LRA.”