General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM commander, and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, spoke with reporters at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, on April 24-25, 2012. The Q and A sessions focused on the U.S. military to the contribution to the multinational efforts to support and enable partner nations to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa. The U.S. military role is one component of a comprehensive, multi-year U.S. government strategy designed to increase the protection of civilians; apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and senior commanders from the battlefield; promote the defection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters; and increase humanitarian access and providing continued relief to affected communities.
This effort was also the focus of an April 24, 2012, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; and Ear Gast, assistant administrator for Africa, USAID, discussed the U.S. policy aspects of the diplomatic, humanitarian and military roles.
Below are a few excerpts from those sessions:
The role of U.S. forces in countering the LRA:
“We do not have an operational role, and this is I think often misunderstood … . And so we try to educate and inform people to make sure that they understand that that’s not what this is. Our effort, again, is very much a supporting role to try to encourage the militaries of the four African countries that are involved, to lead their effort.” — General Ham
Support to partner nations:
“In discussion with the countries involved, we felt that they felt that we could best assist by having a small number of forces with them to help plan and coordinate logistics, intelligence and information-sharing, communication, medical recovery, those kinds of activities. Sometimes it’s just easier and more effective to do that if you’re together on the ground than trying to do that from a long distance. I believe, even in the short time that this mission has been under way, that that presence of American advisors and assistors has been effective. But I think it will become more effective over time.” — General Ham
“In partnership with USAID, the State Department is supporting projects to increase civilian protection, enhance early warning capabilities, deliver humanitarian relief, and strengthen the overall resiliency of communities. We also continue to encourage other international donors to increase their efforts in these areas. As we have seen in northern Uganda and parts of South Sudan, development can play a critical role in pushing out the LRA and keeping it from returning.” — Assistant Secretary Yamamoto
“If this was easy, he would already have been brought to justice. The Ugandans, the Congolese, the South Sudan, Central African Republic, the African Union, the United Nations, lots of nongovernmental organizations, the United States and many others want nothing more than to bring him to justice. So it’s not for lack of will. It is the complexity of operating in this environment. All we can do, I think, is continue to do the best we can to enable those who are operating in the field to try to bring this to conclusion.” — General Ham
Challenges of the operating environment:
“The size of the area that we’re talking about is about the size of California. So it’s a large geographic area, heavily forested, very remote, lack of infrastructure, very few roads, bridges – it’s very, very rough terrain. And so it doesn’t lend itself to an easy solution. And we’re looking for essentially about – we think the Lord’s Resistance Army probably numbers somewhere in the 200 range, and we don’t think they’re ever together. They’re operating in very, very small groups.” — General Ham
“I am confident that we have room to improve our understanding of all the dimensions of the LRA and Joseph Kony operating in that environment. I’m confident that we know more now than we knew six months ago. And I’m confident that over time that we will get to the end states that our president has set out for us with respect to the LRA.” — Rear Admiral Losey
Special operations forces:
“The soldiers (supporting counter LRA efforts) are from operational detachment alphas. And they come with all the basic special forces operating skills provided by Army Special Forces. … The big benefit right now – what makes us a little bit different is the fact that we are having troop-to-troop contact in the field to do these training functions and to understand what’s happening at the ground level up. When you’re operating from embassies and through normal governmental structures that don’t involve troops in the field, I think you get a slightly different tilt on things.” — Rear Admiral Losey
“There’s been a lot of conflict in this part of Africa. And if removal of the Lord’s Resistance Army helps contribute to stability and security, if it affords the opportunity for better government, for better economic development, for education and health care to be extended to people, that will bring a broader sense of security and stability. And while that’s certainly good for the people who live in that part of Africa, ultimately it’s also good for us. It builds regional stability. And I think that’s really our overall goal, is to help contribute to regional security.” — General Ham
The end state:
“Effectively ending the LRA threat requires simultaneously removing the top leadership from the battlefield and addressing the conditions that leave communities so vulnerable to predatory groups such as the LRA. This is precisely why the United States is seeking to pursue a multi-faceted strategy to enhance both military and civilian capacity in the region.” — Assistant Secretary Yamamoto
A full transcript of General Ham’s media session is available on the AFRICOM home page. You can read it here, or click here to read Rear Admiral Losey’s transcript. You can click here to read a transcript of Yamamoto’s and other officials’ testimony, or watch an archived video of the entire hearing.
Please click on the links below for more information on AFRICOM, U.S. assistance in countering the LRA and other background resources.