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By Godfrey Olukya 13-12-2013

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 yesterday.

Africa press reports that the aircraft are expected to fly to Burundi
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.”

END

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