Two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and a small command and support team are on the ground in Uganda, preparing to conduct airlift operations in support of ongoing peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said today.
The aircraft are expected to fly to Burundi tomorrow morning to transport a Burundian light infantry battalion to Bangui, Central African Republic, a Pentagon official said.
A second small team of Air Force logisticians is on the ground in Burundi to prepare equipment for loading, and a third team is in the Central African Republic to assist in security operations at the airfield, the official said.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian requested limited assistance from the United States military to support this international effort, Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a Dec. 9 statement. “In the near term,” he said, “France has requested airlift support to enable African forces to deploy promptly to prevent the further spread of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic.”
The United States is deeply concerned about “the shocking and horrific atrocities that have been committed by government-affiliated armed groups and independent militias against innocent civilians in the Central African Republic” in recent weeks, the defense official said.
In an audio message released Dec. 9, President Barack Obama called on the transitional government to arrest those who are committing crimes.
“Individuals who are engaging in violence must be held accountable -- in accordance with the law. Meanwhile, as forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians,” Obama said.
Yesterday, the president authorized the State Department to use up to $60 million in defense services and articles for countries that contribute forces to the African Union-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic. The assistance could include logistical support -- including strategic airlift and aerial refueling -- and training for French and African forces deploying to the Central African Republic.
“The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region,” Woog said in his statement. “We continue to work to identify additional resources that might be available to help address further requests for assistance to support the international community’s efforts in CAR.”