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U.S. says operation in Africa mitigates LRA's impact

(Xinhua)

09:15, February 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- In a rare glimpse into the U.S. military operation in the central Africa region against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the operation's commander on Wednesday said that special operations forces are helping four nations in the region reduce the size and lethality of the group that has terrorized the region for 25 years.

Brian L. Losey, commander of Special Operations Command Africa, said in a conference call with reporters that the LRA is down to about 200 core fighters, and it is implicated in 278 attacks and at least 300 abductions last year, which decreased at the end of the year.

"Now they are only a small percentage of their former strength, " Losey said.

While still under the direction of its leader, Joseph Kony, Losey said, the group is kept on the run in the remote, shared border region of South Sudan, Uganda, Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered about 100 special operations forces to deploy to Central Africa last October to train and build the capabilities of the local militaries.

Losey said that the removal of Kony is one of the chief objectives in a broader mission to enable the four partner nations to be fully capable to counter the LRA. Though there is no timeline for the U.S. mission, he added, it also is not open-ended.

The U.S. effort to help the four-nation partnership counter the LRA is a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy that has included training, funding, airlift, logistics, communications and intelligence support -- specifically, fusing intelligence and support to operations, said Losey and Karly Wycoff, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who also participated in the call.

"With our support, these four military forces continue to make progress in reducing the LRA's numbers and keep them from regrouping," Wycoff said.

U.S. forces also are working closely with the State Department, the United Nations, the African Union and nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian relief in the region, Wycoff said.

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