According to CNN News, the troops are there to hunt down the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, a violent guerilla group.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and President Po Tempore of the Senate Daniel Inouye, Obama worte that he had authorized a small number of forces to provide assistance to those working toward the removal of Joseph Kony. Joseph Kony is the head of the LRA, and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
According to Obama, “Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”
In the letter, Obama also wrote that the LRA has been responsible for having “murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and continues to “commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
GlobalPost correspondent in Africa, Tristan McConnel writes that "the rebel group, which first emerged in Uganda in 1987, had been scattered into small ineffective units by a series of harassing assaults in late 2008 and early 2009."
The civil war in Uganda ended in 2006, after a peace process was launched. Kony, who is widely believed to be in the Central African Republic, continues to commit war crimes in remote areas of central Africa.
According to a Defense Department official, speaking to ABC News, the U.S. troops will be in Africa “for a few months in an advisory role.”
According to Al Jazeera, a small number of troops were deployed on Wednesday, and additional forces will deploy over the course of the month.
The United States has backed efforts to hunt Kony in central Africa before:
“I just don’t understand why we cannot end this scourge,” said Hillary Clinton in February 2010.
MORE FROM GLOBALPOST ABOUT THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY
BANGADI, Congo — They emerged from the bush at dawn, like apparitions in ragged clothes, matted hair — and with guns.
One of them, a woman, drifted down the dusty main street of the village whistling and writhing, as if in a trance, her bare skin glowing with an oily sheen.
“She was a sorcerer who wanted to make us think they were devils,” said Nicolas Akoyo Efoda, a local leader in the village of Bangadi in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Then, he said, “we shot her and killed her and then burned her body in the center of town."
Such has been the violent response of this otherwise peaceful farming community to an increasing number of brutal attacks by Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.
The LRA, led by the self-styled mystic Joseph Kony, has waged a 20-year war in Uganda. Although Kony maintains he is fighting to establish a world based on the Ten Commandments, he has become known for his brutality.
The LRA has abducted more than 20,000 children for use as sex slaves and front-line fighters, according to Human Rights Watch. The LRA rebels have a reputation for grisly mutilations, such as hacking off the lips and ears of their victims. Many children were forced to kill their parents, so they would have no family to return to.
In recent years the LRA has moved into the lawless wilds of eastern Congo in an attempt to elude offensives by Uganda’s army and arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
In late 2008, the Ugandan army followed them across the border at the invitation of the Congolese government. A series of attacks on LRA strongholds deep in Congo’s forest dislodged the rebels from their bases, but, like a wounded animal, the rebels became more dangerous than ever.
Hunted and on the run, the LRA has scattered into small groups of one or two dozen fighters — sometimes fewer — and is terrorizing a vast swath of Congo’s northeast, near the Sudanese and Ugandan borders.
The LRA has slaughtered more than 900 people in the last few months. Many of the victims have been hacked to death with machetes in a string of massacres in remote villages filled with thatched mud huts, according to Doctors Without Borders, the French medical aid group that has been treating injured Congolese civilians. The rebels also prey on civilians fleeing along distant roads through thick forests.