What Did the U.S. Mission Against Joseph Kony Accomplish?

What Did the U.S. Mission Against Joseph Kony Accomplish?
A U.S. Army Special Forces captain speaks with troops from the Central African Republic and Uganda searching for warlord Joseph Kony, Obo, Central African Republic, April 29, 2012 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Uganda recently began withdrawing troops from the Central African Republic that had been tasked with hunting Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group. Kony founded the LRA in 1987 in northern Uganda, and his fighters became notorious for abducting children and forcing them to serve as soldiers and sex slaves. The rebel leader remains at large, but Uganda’s military recently said the group’s “means of making war against Uganda have been degraded” and that LRA commanders had “been killed, captured or surrendered.” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, offered a similar assessment when announcing in March that U.S. forces were ending their operations against the LRA. In an email interview, Paul Ronan, director of research and policy with Invisible Children, the advocacy group that in 2012 made a widely viewed film about the LRA, discusses the current strength of the LRA and lessons that can be drawn from the intervention.

WPR: What is the current state of the LRA, and how much of its decline was attributed to the intervention or to other factors such as Uganda’s amnesty program?

Paul Ronan: With fewer than 140 fighters currently within its ranks, the LRA is at its weakest point in decades. Kony commanded nearly 3,000 fighters at the group’s peak in the late 1990s, and as many as 400 in 2011 when then-President Barack Obama deployed U.S. Special Forces to assist Ugandan troops in counter-LRA operations.

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