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Using US troops to arrest LRA leader Joseph Kony is a bad idea

LRA leader Joseph Kony should be arrested, but its not as easy as sending in US troops, which are not likely to be welcomed by locals, writes guest blogger Laura Seay.

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Oh, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. Really? Sending some kind of US force into the weakest corner of three extremely weak states and one that could have dealt with this long ago had its leadership really wanted to do so, into territory they don't know, where they don't speak the local languages, to track down an enemy nobody's yet been able to nab, with limited resources? Is this what you're advocating? Really?

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I have a ton of respect for Human Rights Watch and the incredible work they do, especially in Africa's Great Lakes region. While I don't agree that it's the worst idea on the internet from Tuesday, this recommendation is off base. Aside from the significant logistical and diplomatic quandaries such operations would pose (How, for example, does Roth think Khartoum would react to an American military presence on south Sudanese soil? Would the French agree to the presence of an American force in the CAR?), fighting in the dense forests in which the LRA hides without knowing the territory, the languages, or the local cultures means that troops undertaking such an operation would be at a significant tactical disadvantage.

Of course all reasonable people agree that Kony needs to be arrested and prosecuted for the unbelievable crime for which he is allegedly responsible. But if it were that easy, it would've been done already. Say, by the French troops who are already in the Central African Republic. Though mostly engaged in training operations these days, they at least theoretically comprise a significant enough force strength to get the job done.

Part of the reason Kony has been able to evade capture for so long has to do with the way he positions his fighters around his camps and the systems of notification of impending attack he's able to employ. You can't always track the LRA's movements with satellites and open-source intelligence; they're smart enough to stay under tree cover most of the time and there aren't many mobile phone networks in these areas through which informants can phone in sightings. Kony may be crazy, but he's not an idiot – he's got a system. This is not an operation that can be undertaken quickly with a few helicopters and some RPGs.

While the humanitarian use of force may be a good idea in theory, as we've seen before, it doesn't often work out as well as planned. Especially in unfamiliar territory. Tread lightly on this one, policy makers. It's going to take far more than a quick in-and-out sweep to take down Kony.

Laura Seay blogs at Texas in Africa.

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