US officials denied Tuesday that it is considering basing Osprey aircraft in Uganda as part of plans to scale up its mission to catch the brutal African warlord Joseph Kony.
The Washington Post reported the Pentagon has asked for permission to temporarily base the sophisticated CV-22 Osprey in the country to help US 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.
US President Barack Obama launched a small US 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 US 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," Colonel 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."
But a State Department official said there were "no plans at this time to deploy Osprey to support the counter-LRA mission."
"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," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"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."
"However, it is challenging. And finding a way to apprehend the top leaders is challenging given that it operates in... some of the world's poorest, least governed and most inaccessible regions."
Earlier this year, the US offered $5 million for Kony's capture through its war crimes rewards program in the hope the reward might help Washington track down one of the world's most wanted men.
© 2013 AFP
Date: Oct 29, 2013