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Thread: COIN case: LRA Lords Resistance Army

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default COIN case: LRA Lords Resistance Army

    27 June Washington Post - Desperate Villagers Flee Central African Republic by Stephanie McCrummen.

    Widespread banditry, kidnapping and political violence in the volatile and virtually lawless northeastern corner of the Central African Republic are forcing thousands of villagers to flee to Chad, where the security situation is possibly more desperate, according to an Amnesty International report released Tuesday.

    The strife in the Republic, a landlocked nation of about 4.4 million people, is being exacerbated by the politically distinct conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region, which has spilled into eastern Chad.

    "There is a lot of talk rightly about Darfur and eastern Chad, but the international community seems to be forgetting the people in CAR," said Godfrey Byaruhanga, an Amnesty International researcher who interviewed villagers in the Republic and Chad...

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    Council Member Michael F's Avatar
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    Default COIN case: LRA

    In Dec 2008, a joint (DRC, Uganda, Southern Sudan) ops was staged to neutralize the LRA

    See this NY times article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/wo...=uganda&st=cse

    The question now is not what went wrong or not (or maybe for lessons learned), who failed or not BUT HOW TO DEAL WITH THE LRA now ?

    A new bill in the US Senate (Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act 2009) calls for renewed US/AFRICOM involvement and emphasize the need to protect civilian populations.

    HOW CAN THIS BE ACHIEVED ? Any comment, advice, remark or reference to article is welcome.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Previous episode

    Just in case background is sought, this is the previous thread on joint action: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ghlight=uganda

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    The problem with the LRA is not just the LRA but also the terrain and the countries involved. The LRA uses the flushing quail technique to great effect. That means blocking forces and airlift to shift them where they need to be. None of the countries involved have that level of air support at their disposal. You need the blocking forces to contain then as a sustained kill capture effort runs them to ground. Otherwise we get a repeat of what has happened before.

    Tom

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    Council Member Michael F's Avatar
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    Sure Tom, terrain seems particularly difficult. The LRA (about 400 fighters) is spread in small groups of 10 men in an area twice the size of Ireland, now unpopulated, and with plenty of natural cover.

    To neutralize them you have to find them hence the problem... UAVs (lack of autonomy) or Satelitte Pix (small mobile groups-average speed of a LRA group is 35 Kms a day) can not help finding them.
    Even if you spot them, UPDF has a couple of Hinds in Southern Sudan, and even on QRA these would need up to 30 minutes to arrive on site (idem for MONUC's Hip in Dungu DRC).
    Surrounding the area is just unthinkable (lack of forces, different countries and sheer size of the area).

    One option would have been to leave Kony alone for a moment, let him resettle, rebuid camps and once the LRA is regrouped and fixed...reattack but Kony is too smart for that and knows mobility and terrain offer him a huge advantage.

    An other option would be to install UN bases inside this area with a small force in each plus organize a Psyops (leaflets) to convince isolated LRA groups to disarm. I guess this would be too risky in the eyes of the UN.

    Arming the locals to allow them to defend is according to me a great idea that could turn to nightmare as locals would also use these weapons to settle local conflicts (confer Ituri, North Katanga and Kivu...everytime self-defense militias were created these turned to ethnic then undiscriminated violence)

    Finally, to continue to try to track every group and intervene after every village attack hoping to bag some LRA is not very successfull.

    So what ?????

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    One of the complications in dealing with the LRA is that in addition to being very evil, they have on occasion in the past proven to be quite good infantry. The Guatemalans learned this the hard way several years ago.

    Maybe this is somewhat akin to chasing the Apaches around; a very mobile opponent, difficult terrain and they fight well. What Crook did on at least on occasion was to get on their trail, and stay on their trail, no matter what. They eventually got tired of being chased around and gave up.

    Perhaps a similar thing might work. You would have groups of men get on the trail of big or little LRA groups and stay there, for months if need be. The air support that was available would be used mostly to resupply the tracking groups. The armed helos would be ready to go out when a tracking group fixed a group of LRA.

    The hard part would be getting good men for the tracking groups. I don't know if the Ugandans could do it. Judging by Tom's comments in the past the Rwandans could certainly do it. Then you would have to get somebody to pay for it and get the countries the effort would go through to sign off on it.

    An advantage would be it would keep constant pressure on the LRA. If good African troops were used in the tracking groups the logistical reqs wouldn't be huge.

    Lots of difficulties but doable I think.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Michael F's Avatar
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    Default Way to go

    Carl, this makes a lot of sense and i guess some US trained UPDF SF could do the job.

    Tracking the LRA in small groups could be a very long task...(months) but present indeed the best chances of success.

    It also allows for a more discreet Ugandan presence on DRC soil which surely would aleviate some political pressure on President Kabila.

    BTW the UPDF SF commander is Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the First son of President Museveni. Should the SF succeed it would also be good to prepare the kiddo to take over from daddy

    About AFRICOM support, this could be minimal in terms of boots on the ground (support to planning, training the SF and intelligence) which would avoid to risk a second failure (the operation Lightning Thunder failed to its aim of killing Kony but is also said to have been plagged by massive corruption).

    Actually, Carl, i think that your idea is possibly already applied. In a ENOUGH report (Finishing the Fight Against the LRA), it is stated that " Many Ugandan troops, however, have stayed in Congo and continue to conduct “intelligence operations” against the LRA. Some low-scale fighting between the remaining Ugandan troops and the LRA has been reported, but these largely below-the-radar efforts are likely insufficient to corner the LRA leadership".

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I hope the Ugandans are doing something like this now. If they were, it would not be something they would publicize until it was all done.

    If they aren't, this is the kind of thing Special Forces A Teams (if they are still called that) would be ideal for. I imagine there would be great enthusiasm for a training mission, and maybe a little leading, to assist the UPDF in finally destroying the LRA.

    One thing is, whatever is to be done, it can't depend at all on the FARDC and as little as possible on MONUC.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default AFRICOM’s new focus?

    Congressmen and NGOs picking missions is never a good thing. I am fully supportive of taking out the LRA; an active role, however, for AFRICOM at this juncture would be a serious setback to its efforts to calm the continent about its mission.

    AFRICOM’s new focus?
    Lawmakers push for U.S. to aid hunt for rebel leader
    By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes
    Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony answers journalists' questions following a meeting with UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland Sunday Nov 12 , 2006 at Ri-Kwamba in Southern Sudan. Egeland met with Kony, the elusive leader of Uganda's notorious rebel Lord's Resistance Army and one of the world's most-wanted war crimes suspects, seeking to secure the release of women and children enslaved by the group during their 20-year conflict with the Ugandan government. But Kony denied that his forces are holding prisoners. STUTTGART, Germany — It’s not exactly a call to arms, but it doesn’t sound that far off either.

    In a little-noticed piece of bipartisan legislation introduced this spring — the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act — a group of U.S. lawmakers is urging the Obama administration to form a strategy for taking out one of the most dangerous rebel leaders roaming the jungles of Africa: Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

    "Kony’s removal is essential to peace in the region," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who was one of many Republican and Democratic politicians issuing statements following the bill’s introduction.

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    Council Member Michael F's Avatar
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    Honestly, i think Africom was and is already involved in more than "capacity building". Providing weapons to the TFG in Somalia, the support to the anti-LRA ops,Umoja Wetu in the Kivus...should prove enough that Africom, despite a young Command, wants to show "it can get its hands dirty". Is it a bad or good thing ? Should they be more directly involved ? Opinions may differ but mine is quite clear: It should be more involved and more open to other stakeholders.

    In the LRA case, a joint AFRICOM, FR, UK, BEL, support (intelligence, logistic,...) to DRC, Ugandan, Southern Sudan and CAR would surely ensure complete international support, increase the quality of the intelligence provided, alleviate fears of "you are stepping into my area of influence"....Politically as well as technically, this would be mostly positive.
    Should Africom go alone with the UPDF (meaning without collaboration with FR, BEL, UK and to some extend DRC) like for Lightning Thunder, and should it fail again, it would just help the sceptic in Africa and elsewhere to point the finger to Africom (young, ambitious but inexperienced would be their description of Africom)...

    Sharing failure is the best way to ensure there won't be any (or at least support would be maximum) or to limit it a maximum in terms of public image.

  11. #11
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael F View Post
    Honestly, i think Africom was and is already involved in more than "capacity building". Providing weapons to the TFG in Somalia, the support to the anti-LRA ops,Umoja Wetu in the Kivus...should prove enough that Africom, despite a young Command, wants to show "it can get its hands dirty". Is it a bad or good thing ? Should they be more directly involved ? Opinions may differ but mine is quite clear: It should be more involved and more open to other stakeholders.

    In the LRA case, a joint AFRICOM, FR, UK, BEL, support (intelligence, logistic,...) to DRC, Ugandan, Southern Sudan and CAR would surely ensure complete international support, increase the quality of the intelligence provided, alleviate fears of "you are stepping into my area of influence"....Politically as well as technically, this would be mostly positive.
    Should Africom go alone with the UPDF (meaning without collaboration with FR, BEL, UK and to some extend DRC) like for Lightning Thunder, and should it fail again, it would just help the sceptic in Africa and elsewhere to point the finger to Africom (young, ambitious but inexperienced would be their description of Africom)...

    Sharing failure is the best way to ensure there won't be any (or at least support would be maximum) or to limit it a maximum in terms of public image.
    We can agree to disagree. AFRICOM has been under scrutiny since its beginning and this is too early for it to be proving its critics correct.

    Tom

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default The answer may lie in old fashioned tracking and follow up.

    The LRA are only a problem when they actually do something -that is, go near / attack or attempt to influence a node that someone actually acres about. These are not as common as one might think in the large border areas of the DRC. Hence, you do not need to cover off on the whole area, only the things that matter. This reduces your problem considerably.

    Next step is to take a leaf out of the South African book vis a vis SW Africa in the early 80s. The SAPOL's 'Koevet' organisation developed considerable expertise in a framework that consisted of positioning reaction forces near or on the known nodes or infil/ exfil points for the PLAN.

    When cued to an incident, Koevet could react, and were equipped with trackers and were mobile enough to follow up and pursue the PLAN elements detected (normally small groups -much like the description offered previously of the LRA's current modus operandi). Whilst Helos were used, the key elements of success I assess were:
    a. speed of reaction (based on on sound assessment of vital ground and appropriate positioning forces);
    b. appropriate tactical mobility and firepower;
    c. tracking skills (often using 'turned' terrorists and/or local indigenes); and
    d. Aggression - a desire to close with the enemy and destroy him.

    I would be keen to hear why such an approach couldn't work against the LRA.

    regards,

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 07-15-2009 at 01:25 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Incidentally on Koevoet

    The para-military branch of the South African / South-West African police in what is now Namibia are covered in 'Koevoet' by Jim Hooper: http://www.amazon.com/Koevoet-Jim-Hooper/dp/1868121674

    There are two editions, I've got the early one(1988).

    Hooper's book is not cited in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koevoet

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default LRA in Southern Sudan


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    Registered User James Bean's Avatar
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    Default Re RFI and LRA

    Rex, as SWJ contemplates, there are inherent sensitivities to discussing certain parts of one's work in too much detail. My own views of LRA are as follows:

    1. Coming at armed insurgent groups from an Asian-lens, LRA is difficult to comprehend. I spend a lot of time in Northern Uganda, and find the Acholis and Langis to be compassionate, acutely aware of the conflict (even its westward migration), and hardworking (when they have the opportunity). Yet everything I have learnt about LRA firsthand is that it's a user-pays mercenary group specialising in insurgency; devoid of ideology. It is a maw that sucks in lives and destroys them.
    2. As for the glut of commentary that militates against LRA and advocates SF/COIN and 'irregular' approaches to snuffing out the LRA; rather than being malignant, such commentary is simply benign and ignorant. Some of the local players have a second-to-none track record of dealing with insurgencies. On the sharp end of the ledger they know what they are doing. It's just much harder to attain stability than sew instability.
    3. I won't deny that eliminating Konyi would have an immediate impact on LRA, but if we're honest about it, there's not a lot of precedent for success in either eliminating terrorist leaders or proving a sustainable result even when elimination has occurred.
    4. For too long the focus has been on military solutions to the LRA and very little in the way of addressing security in the North. I like how one of our SWJ colleagues (David Kilkullen - hi if he's around - really like the cut of your jib mate!) refers to 'small is beautiful'. Small recoverable and innovative approaches to information dissemination and providing jobs and catalysing change in Northern Uganda will be just as effective, if not more, than gunships and leaflet drops in D.R. Congo (sorry, but in 2009 when people call this PSOP, I just laugh; it's like a ham radio operator obstinately denying the range/convenience of mobile telephony!).

    How's that gentlemen?

    Jim
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-30-2009 at 01:18 PM. Reason: Copied from Hail & Farewell thread.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    To understand LRA, please pay a visit to Conflict Research Group working paper on it.
    This document has been compiled by Kasper Thams Olsen, who I would call THE LRA SPECIALIST. He recently briefed UNMIS and MONUC on them.

    http://www.psw.ugent.be/crg/publicat...gpaper_LRA.pdf

    This paper is a qualitative study on LRA tactics, motivations and use of indiscriminate violence. If that can help... I would be much more than happy.

    Please note that there have been alleged LRA attacks in North West South Sudan. It is not confirmed, it is not official, it has to be taken with caution. But still, that may make sense as they are not welcomed in Uganda, in DRC, CAR and in South South Sudan. Also, as Uganda peace negociator resigned, there is still a slight possibility they go back home. That would fit into their strategy.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-31-2009 at 07:41 PM. Reason: Tidy up spelling and spacing. Add author of report's name.

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    James:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

    On whether eliminating Konyi would transform the situation (ŕ la Savimbi/UNITA), its always hard to predict how internal dynamics play out once a lynchpin leader is removed. Of course, I'm sure none of us would shed a tear if someone were to test the hypothesis

    As for information operations and economic initiatives, what would be the dynamic that would undercut the LRA? The Olsen paper that M-A Lagrange has kindly posted above suggests that the LRA's counter would be retaliation and collective punishment. Are you thinking, from a DDR perspective, of either the possibilities for encouraging defections, the dangers of unemployed defectors returning to the bush, or both?
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Well, I can attest that LRA will retaliate on civilians. After failed action in 2008/2009, LRA killed 900 civilians with machettes as retaliation. I was in DRC at that time.

    Please take time to think about it. When LRA does have undiscriminated violence as modus operantis. This is to demonstrate that opposite side is not capable of providing protection. (Weird, but that is their way).

    Also there are good reports on former abducted children trained by LRA integrated into LRA hunt.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-01-2009 at 12:27 PM. Reason: Polish spelling.

  19. #19
    Council Member Michael F's Avatar
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    Default Short update

    Apparently, Kony is still hunted down by up to 200 UPDF troops in DRC (so called intelligence advisors). During the past month, LRA movements have been reported by Open Sources in the Yambio-Doruma-Ezo triangle. Main LRA looting activity happens now in the EZO area (CAR -SUD-DRC triborder area) which could translate into an other group of LRA escaped to CAR.

    Kony is supposed to have tried to organize a commander meeting in CAR last month (no confirmation if he succeeded to gather his unit commanders or not).

    My gut feeling is (stating the obvious) that Kony is trying to gain time by escaping to CAR. UPDF forces would still be able to track LRA in that most remote zone but less efficiently than in the Garamba area. Kony may want to further reorganize its forces, ensure resupply from allies (Khartum???) via isolated airstrips and proximity to CAR groups supported by Khartum. The aim of the game is to survive untill 2011 and the potentially explosive Southern Sudan referendum. Khartum would surely consider reinforcing arab militias and the LRA ahead of this as these could come handy to influence the referendum or counter a newly independant Southern Sudan.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Well 2011 referendum seems a very long term target. 2010 elections could be a more archivable objective as LRA has no logistical support.
    Also, despite percistent rumours of guns flying all over the place, there has been light hard evidence of Khartum involvement in it, even of the happening of such thing. The one I know is tanks flying from Kenya to Rumbek for GoSS. But still does not mean it does not exist. Bad people even say that it is GoSS that is arming the place to undermine coming referundum...

    Also take in consideration coming DDR schedule in South Sudan. That will ease Kony job to come in and out South Sudan.

    Other thing to take in account is that burning the land for food supply works when you have food coming. LRA favorite target always has been humanitarian programs. For the moment, WFP pockets are dry and donors are reluctant to fund, this is a secret for no one. according to FAO, the coming season is hunger...

    I do not know about Kony meeting in CAR but in DRC, he was still capable to coordinate multy target attacks while his groups were splited all over the place.

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