Apr. 3, 2017 (GIN) – American special operations forces will no longer be searching for the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony, described as a “specially designated global terrorist,” by the International Criminal Court.
The Geneva-based Court issued an arrest warrant for Kony in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command said that troops were being withdrawn because of the apparent weakening of Kony’s fighting force, which reportedly has dwindled to about 100 soldiers from a peak of 3,000.
The U.S. will “transition to broader-scope security and stability activities that continue the success of our African partners,” the military group maintained.
Prior to the announcement, Michale Omona, a key aide to Kony, surrendered to Ugandan forces. This proved the “degraded capacity” of the rebel group, said a Ugandan military spokesman. Omona was in charge of communications for Kony.
The LRA, which began in the 1980s, was internationally reviled for its cruelty towards civilians in Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic and what is now South Sudan. Some 20,000 children were reportedly abducted
A U.S.-based advocacy group, Invisible Children, added to their infamy with an online video of the LRA’s alleged crimes including the abduction of children for sex slaves or fighters.
The U.S. withdrawal leaves Uganda’s military alone in the mission to shut down the LRA. Uganda currently has about 1,500 troops deployed under an African Union military mission to defeat the rebel group.
U.S. support for operations against Kony’s guerrillas began in 2008 and was ramped up in 2011 by the Obama administration which provided troops to work with African Union soldiers, advisory support, intelligence and logistical assistance. More than $780 million was spent on the mission.
Commenting on the move, a member of the Trump transition team said: “The LRA has never attacked US interests, why do we care?” and “I hear that even the Ugandans are looking to stop searching for him, since they no longer view him as a threat, so why do we?”
Also commenting on the withdrawal was Glen Ford, producer of Black Agenda Report. Kony was never a “priority target,” he wrote for a March 28 broadcast. “The real target was the American people, who were subjected to a fake news blitz so that their government could deepen its military occupation of central Africa.”