WASHINGTON – U.S. officials denied Tuesday there is a plan to base Osprey aircraft in Uganda to scale up the mission to catch the brutal African warlord Joseph Kony.
The Washington Post reported the Pentagon has asked for permission to temporarily base sophisticated CV-22 Ospreys, which can land like helicopters but fly like planes, in the country to help U.S. and African troops move swiftly across a broader area and quickly attack Kony’s camps of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters.
A State Department official in Washington said there were “no plans at this time to deploy Osprey to support the counter-LRA mission.”
Kony heads the LRA, which is accused of killing more than 100,000 people in a two-decade reign of terror in Central Africa.
The group also is blamed for the abduction of between 60,000 and 100,000 children and the displacement of 2.5 million people.
Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet who claims his rebels are fighting to establish a government based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, and other LRA leaders face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
U.S. President Barack Obama launched a small American mission in 2011 to help Ugandan troops scour the African jungles for Kony, but it has had no success so far.
The Post reported Monday that the operation has been quietly intensified and expanded in recent weeks, including with U.S. special operations commanders working to train and support local troops in the Congo, as well as Ugandan and South Sudanese units.
“We’re at a new stage in this mission,” Col. Kevin Leahy told the Post. He commands the 100 special operations troops pursuing the Lord’s Resistance Army. “All of the pieces are coming together, and we’re pushing on all fronts.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We do continue to consult with our African partners and look for ways that we can enhance our support. But again, at this time, no plans to deploy Osprey.
“Our view is that we’ve made demonstrable progress in weakening and degrading the LRA’s capabilities,” Psaki told reporters, adding that in recent years two of the top five LRA commanders had “been removed from the battlefield.”