Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, used his second trip to Africa to visit with a Special Forces contingent helping the Ugandan military track down warlord Joseph Kony.
Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, came away with the impression that the 50 to 100 elite service members aiding the Ugandan military are doing good work at a low cost to U.S. taxpayers.
He thinks they have a reasonable shot at tracking down Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army who has terrorized communities in central Africa since the 1980s.
The mission, though, is bigger than Kony. Its real value, Smith said, comes in improved ties to developing militaries that will be important U.S. allies in an unstable part of the world.
“There’s a lot of instability and insecurity in that region, and it’s a region where we need to develop better relationships,” Smith said.
He joined a congressional delegation on its visit to Uganda and Kenya last week. The lawmakers spent two days in each country meeting with intelligence, defense and economic development officials.
Smith described the Kenyans as important allies in searching for Islamist militants in Somalia. A terrorist attack took place shortly after the lawmakers’ visit to Nairobi. A fertilizer bomb in the city injured 38 people, and Kenya’s leaders have not yet said whether it was carried by the Islamist group al-Shabab.
Part of the visit centered on learning about Kenya’s preparations for upcoming elections. Smith’s last trip to Kenya in 2009 focused on violence that followed the country’s elections that year.
President Obama sent the Special Forces contingent to Uganda in October. The service members mostly spend their time training the Ugandan forces at small bases.
Smith described that relationship as an effective way to pursue Western interests without sending tens of thousands of conventional soldiers for an overseas conflict.
“That’s much cheaper and more effective than dropping 100,000 guys in Afghanistan,” he said.
He said the Ugandan forces are drawing in on Kony and his holdout followers from the Lords Resistance Army.
“That’s a big, big part of the world, and it’s dense jungle in some places,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be easy, but they have a decent bead on where he is, and where the rest of the leaders of the LRA are.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8646