War Powers

Obama Sends 100 US Troops to Uganda to Help Combat Lord’s Resistance Army

By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, October 14, 2011, 2:51 PM

That is the headline from ABC News.  The War Powers Resolution notification to Congress states in part:

I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield. I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.

On October 12, the initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda. During the next month, additional forces will deploy, including a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications, and logistics personnel. The total number of U.S. military personnel deploying for this mission is approximately 100. These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA. Our forces will provide information, advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces. Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The support provided by U.S. forces will enhance regional efforts against the LRA. However, 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. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.

This is another humanitarian intervention based on the president’s unilateral Article II power.  This time it involves a small number of ground troops rather than air support, and it is not backed by a U.N. Security Council Resolution.  The WPR letter notes that Congress in the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 “expressed support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.”  But while the President’s letter noted that his action was “in furtherance of the Congress's stated policy,” he relied as authority for the intervention solely on his "constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive."   It will be interesting to see whether the White House consulted with congressional leadership before the intervention, and how Congress reacts.