Reuters International

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it would maintain training for east and central African regional forces to prevent warlord Joseph Kony's rebels from regrouping, despite plans to pull troops from operations hunting the insurgents.

About 100 U.S. military personnel have been providing a regional force made up of soldiers from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic with intelligence, logistics and other support to track Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The rebel leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

Last month, Washington announced that it was pulling its contingent out of operations against the LRA, saying the insurgent force had been "dramatically weakened".

"We obviously have concerns about the possibility of the LRA coming back to fruition," Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, the top U.S. military commander overseeing troops in Africa, told journalists in a telephone briefing.

"We will continue to work with those countries with training and exercises ... because even though we are officially ending (the mission), we are certainly aware of the fact that we do not want to leave a void there."

For nearly two decades, the LRA battled the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni from bases in the north of the country and across the border in what is now South Sudan.

They were notorious for their brutality and for kidnapping children for use as fighters and sex slaves.

In 2005, they were ejected from those bases and retreated to a lawless patch of jungle straddling the borders of South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic (CAR).

Kampala announced on Wednesday that it has also begun withdrawing troops from CAR, saying its decision to pull out was spurred by "the realization that the mission to neutralise the LRA has now been successfully achieved."

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Elias Biryabarema)

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