A viral video campaign seeks to help the youngest victims of two decades of war in Uganda, and stop Joseph Kony, the leader of an extremist group. NBC's Craig Melvin reports.
The State Department on Thursday dismissed any suggestion that the United States might pull its advisers out of Uganda, a prospect raised by the “KONY 2012” video generating millions of views on the Internet.
That viral video details the atrocities carried out by Josephy Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and is part of a marketing campaign by the advocacy group Invisible Children to raise awareness about the issue. The jungle militia leader is wanted for atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted by troops in four Central African countries. Last year, the U.S. sent nearly 100 Special Forces troops to Uganda to train military forces there in an attempt to stop Kony.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Thursday applauded the effort to “shine a light on the horrible atrocities of the LRA.”
"Hundreds of -- and thousands of people around the world, especially the young people, have been mobilized to express concern for the communities in central Africa that have been placed under siege by the LRA,” Nuland said during a daily press briefing. “So the degree to which this YouTube video helps to increase awareness and increase support for the work that governments are doing, including our own government -- that can only help all of us."
Nuland said U.S. is "very much involved" in supporting Uganda and its neighboring states with the Special Forces advisers, who are armed and combat-equipped but only for self-defense. “They've only been in for a couple of months, and we consider them a very important augmentation for our effort to help the East and Central African countries with this problem," she said.
An American charity released a short film Monday which includes heartbreaking interviews with former victims of African warlord Joseph Kony. NBC's Craig Melvin reports on the video and how fast it went viral.
The U.S. troops are armed and combat-equipped, bu their mission is as field trainers, although the military has said they will fight back if attacked.
Although there no plans to remove advisers, the mission is not an open-ended commitment, according to one senior defense official. So, while there is no specific timeline for how long American forces will be there, the U.S. constantly reassesses the situation and its effectiveness, that official said.
Since 2008, the U.S. has spent approximately $500 million helping to strengthen the Ugandan Army in its battle against the LRA.
The Lord's Resistance Army has an estimated 150 to 200 core fighters, with another 600 to 1,000 other supporters or affiliated members throughout central Africa. It arose in Uganda in the 1980s in response to alleged brutality against the Acholi people, but since has been blamed for thousands of mutilations and killings over the last 26 years. The militia abducts children, forcing them to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, and even to kill their parents or each other to survive.
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NBC News' Courtney Kube and Jim Miklaszewski contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.
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