The New York Times today confirmed what I have reported for weeks now, that the Ugandan army attack on the camps of rebel leader Joseph Kony and his brutal band of killers, the Lord's Resistance Army, was botched.
New, however, is that finally the U.S. military admits it was involved in the training of the special forces that attacked Kony's camps in the Garamba National Park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the planning of the operation.
However, the comments made by the U.S. forces are very reserved, as if they are trying to distance themselves from a poorly executed plan that has resulted in a bloody rampage by the LRA that has killed some 900 people.
It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials, the Times reported.
They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel, the Times reported.
However, the newspaper reports, no American forces ever got involved in the ground fighting in this isolated, rugged corner of Congo, but human rights advocates and villagers rightly complained that the Ugandans and the Congolese troops who carried out the operation did little or nothing to protect nearby villages, despite a history of rebel reprisals against civilians.
As I have written and told to the BBC, which interviewed me on the topic several weeks ago, "the troops did not seal off the rebels’ escape routes or deploy soldiers to many of the nearby towns where the rebels slaughtered people in churches and even tried to twist off toddlers’ heads," the Times reported.
Further, the Times explained that American officials conceded that the operation did not go as intended, and that villagers were left exposed.
“We provided insights and alternatives for them to consider, but their choices were their choices,” said one American military official who was briefed on the operation, referring to the African forces on the ground, according to the Times.
“In the end, it was not our operation.”
That doesn't sound like a whopping endorsement for the results.
Maj. Felix Kulayigye, a Ugandan military spokesman, declined to discuss the American involvement and simply said, “There was no way to prevent these massacres,” according to The Times.
If there is any good to come to light, it is that in fact the U.S. has become involved actively in some of Africa's most important tragedies. However, the new AfriCOM which lead the way here, hopefully learned a lesson that planning is only the first step.
Ensuring proper execution of such missions must be also integral to the mission, or as we have seen, the results are catastrophic.