The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: They're Sending War Dogs to Track down Kony

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Earlier this week, FP's own Elias Groll wrote an in-depth profile about intrepid reporter Robert Young Pelton and his plan to track down the notorious African warlord Joseph Kony. Apparently, though, it's not just Pelton who's going all-in on going after Kony. In his Washington Post article, "Kony 2013: U.S. quietly intensifies effort to help African troops capture infamous warlord," Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that U.S. forces are sending in tracker dogs:

African troops and their U.S. advisers are also being aided by two American philanthropists, who are paying $120,000 a month for six Belgian Malinois tracking dogs and their handlers. The dogs have accompanied soldiers on patrols and raids. In September, they were helicoptered into the rebel camp near Garamba to assist in the search for fleeing Kony loyalists.

The dog teams are funded by Howard G. Buffett, the eldest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and Shannon Sedgwick Davis, an activist from Texas who heads the Bridgeway Foundation, the charitable arm of Bridgeway Capital Management, a large investment firm that devotes half of its after-tax profit to human rights causes.

The United States used tracker dogs with tremendous success during the Vietnam War. Navigating the tangled brush of the jungle was no easy task; not only did the dogs help keep their handlers and the men who followed behind them on a safe path, but patrols that were accompanied by dog teams were almost always able to avoid being ambushed. And though it's a less-utilized skill deployed by the military's dog program nowadays, tracker dog teams still offer the same advantages, especially in a manhunt scenario. I've followed behind a tracker dog team and watched SF dog teams train. Their skills are unparalleled.

So, the question in this instance really is not "Why would Special Forces employ dog teams on the Kony manhunt mission?" but, "Why wouldn't they?"

In a brief exchange over Facebook, I asked Pelton what he thought about sending these elite dogs in on the hunt for Kony.

"Obviously I have seen these dogs in action," he wrote. "But I have also seen that part of Africa ... These well trained dogs are typically used in close encounters (flushing a suspect out of a hiding place, rather than across hundreds of miles of swamps, grasslands and forests.) They are good, but nothing replaces HUMINT and man trackers." He added: "The Special Forces are the best of the best... but they are also restricted by a number of rules, resources and just the vast scope of the region. I wish them luck!"

And so do we.

Rebecca Frankel is special projects editor at Foreign Policy.


The Best Defense

Getting rid of all bad guys: The American mission, or a recipe for forever war?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran had a very good look at U.S. special operators pursuing warlord Joseph Kony. Well worth your reading.

But in it, my hackles were raised by this comment from an American diplomat:

"Is Joseph Kony a direct threat to the United States? No," said Scott DeLisi, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda. "He's not targeting U.S. citizens. He's not targeting U.S. embassies. He's not al-Qaeda."

Instead, DeLisi said, Kony merits U.S. involvement because his malign behavior runs counter to "our core values."

"Why is the United States engaged in the world, for God's sake?" he said. "If we are true to what we believe in as Americans ... we need to get rid of Joseph Kony."

Justifications like that make me sympathetic to the Bacevichians who want us to pull back. If the U.S. mission in the world is to get rid the world of evil, we are going to be fighting for a loooong time. Among other things, that likely will undermine our nation. So by trying to enforce American values abroad we may lose them at home.