War Powers Resolution

Close Enough: The Quiet Conclusion of the Combat-Equipped Deployment to Uganda

By Robert Chesney
Tuesday, April 18, 2017, 11:54 AM

A few weeks ago, AFRICOM quietly brought to an end a five-year-old combat-equipped deployment that for a time had raised some very interesting War Powers Resolution questions.

Back in 2011, as Jack summarized here, the Obama administration deployed combat-equipped special operations forces to Uganda in order to assist in the effort to capture Joseph Kony and destroy the so-called Lord's Resistance Army. The administration issued a WPR notification to Congress, but took the position that this was not an episode involving the actual introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities (or a situation in which their involvement in hostilities was imminent), and thus the WPR 60-day clock did not apply.

By 2014, it was no longer clear that this was a fair characterization of the deployment. As I noted here, information about the SOF role in accompanying Ugandan forces in the field strongly suggested that the "introduction" prong of the WPR had in fact been triggered. As I also noted, however, there was at least a plausible argument that Congress had suffficiently authorized that particular mission, thus mooting the issue. To the best of my knowledge, at any rate, no one in Congress ever made much of a fuss about the clock issue, and the media in general certainly did not make an issue of it.

Well, the question is certainly just academic now. A few weeks ago, AFRICOM issued a little-noticed press release announcing that the "counter-LRA" mission has ended thanks to its substantial success (the LRA reportedly has fewer than 100 remaining fighters, from a high in the thousands, and four of five LRA leaders have been captured (though Kony himself remains free)). While some U.S. forces will remain in Uganda for traditional security-assistance and stability missions, the forces that had been actively involved in the counter-LRA effort are being withdrawn.