CV-22 Ospreys are among the additional U.S. assets being sent to help with the search for fugitive warlord Joseph Kony. (Bell Helicopter)
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The U.S. is sending more special operations forces — along with CV-22 Ospreys and transport and refueling aircraft — to Uganda to help African Union troops combat the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is led by Joseph Kony, a White House official confirmed on Monday.
As the Washington Post first reported Sunday, the aircraft and special operations forces are expected to arrive in Uganda by the middle of this week. At least four Ospreys will be part of the mission. Additionally, the U.S. military is sending MC-130 transports and KC-135 refuelers, said Lt. Col James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Special Operations Command Africa.
“Out of concern for operational security, we can’t discuss specific numbers of personnel, but we estimate about 150 additional support personnel and air crew,” he told Military Times.
The African Union troops combating the LRA have been inhibited by their lack of airlift, so the Ospreys will help them search for LRA fighters in areas of the Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
“The deployment of these aircraft and personnel does not signify a change in the nature of the U.S. military advisory role in this effort,” Hayden told Military Times on Monday. “African Union-led regional forces remain in the lead, with U.S. forces supporting and advising their efforts.”
U.S. forces used CV-22 Ospreys in December as part of efforts to evacuate people from South Sudan. On Dec. 21, four service members identified in media reports as SEALs were wounded when three CV-22s were shot at while trying to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town of Bor.
The LRA, which kidnaps children and forces them to become sex slaves or child soldiers, has been significantly weakened by African Union troops with U.S. support, Hayden said. As the U.S. government partners with Uganda to fight the LRA, it is curtailing other aspects of its relationship in response to the country’s recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act, she said.
“We will shift the DOD-sponsored Africa Air Chiefs Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence NCO course to locations outside of Uganda. Certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police has been suspended or canceled,” Hayden said. “We continue to look at additional steps we may take, to work to protect LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] individuals from violence and discrimination, and to urge Uganda to repeal this abhorrent law.”