After their meeting in early August, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni didn't say that the United States and Uganda are the only two countries -- working together -- that have the best chance of bringing an end to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). But that is the stark reality. After all the global attention heaped on Joseph Kony, the LRA warlord wreaking havoc throughout a handful of central African countries, it turns out that the existing plan for bringing him to justice isn't going to work. U.S. Special Forces deployed 10 months ago to support the mission are sitting on their hands because they are not tasked with directly accompanying Ugandan forces in their pursuit of Kony and the LRA. And Uganda, the only country whose army is undertaking offensive operations against the LRA, is rapidly pulling its forces out of the war theater as it redeploys its forces to Somalia. If the United States and Uganda don't change the plan quickly, it will fail.
All available intelligence shows that the largest LRA concentrations are in the northeastern corner of the Central African Republic (CAR). Reportedly, some forces are crossing the border into southwestern Darfur, Sudan, possibly to get resupplied. That is where Kony himself is thought to be. Other LRA units are carrying out frequent attacks in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The one thing those locations have in common is that they are all currently inaccessible to Ugandan and U.S. forces. The Ugandans are concentrated far south of where Kony and his commanders are thought to be hiding in CAR, and they are not allowed sustained access into Congo or Sudan.
A shadow of its former self, the LRA consists of perhaps 300 hard-core fighters, served by hundreds more abducted children. This is down from its heyday a decade earlier, when LRA troop strength was in the thousands and the regime in Khartoum, Sudan, was providing sanctuary, weapons, and funding. Given their weakened state today, this is a winnable war.
Since the Kony 2012 video went viral with its 100 million views, many governments around the world have pledged their support for the mission to defeat the LRA once and for all. Despite all the rhetorical support, the military mission is missing five major ingredients for potential success.
First, high-level diplomacy must convince governments whose territories are being used as hideouts for Kony and his henchmen to allow sustained access to no-go areas in CAR, Congo, and Sudan. The United Nations General Assembly meeting in September could provide a forum for critical deal-making in this regard.