WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- President Obama said Friday he is sending military advisers to central Africa to help regional troops fighting a sectarian rebel group.
"For more than two decades, the Lord's Resistance Army has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa," Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders Friday. "The LRA continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security."
The guerrilla force, rooted in Protestant Christianity, mysticism and traditional African religion, has been seeking to create a theocratic state since 1987.
An initial team of combat-equipped U.S. military personnel was sent to Uganda this week, Obama said. During the next month, additional forces will deploy, including a second combat-equipped team and personnel for headquarters, communications and logistics. Obama said about 100 service personnel would be deployed.
"These forces will act as advisers to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA," Obama said.
The U.S. forces will be sent to Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.
Obama said his action was in furtherance of Congress' stated policy in the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.
"I believe that deploying these U.S. armed forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa," he said.
Even though the forces are combat-equipped, "they will only be providing information, advice and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense," Obama said.