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Pentagon's anti-Kony mission could stretch into 2015

Sep. 12, 2013 - 03:07PM   |  
(FILES) A file photo taken on November 1
The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) Joseph Kony is seen in this 2006 photo. A U.S. Transportation Command contract solicitation released Sept. 11 spells out requirements into November 2015. (Stuart Price / AFP via Getty Images)
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The Pentagon mission to help four central African nations track warlord Joseph Kony could extend deep into 2015, according to records released Wednesday.

As part of Operation Observant Compass, the United States is providing military advisers and transport services in a four-nation region of Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The operation started in October 2011 when President Obama authorized the deployment of about 100 special operations forces to the region to help Uganda stop Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

The document posted by the U.S. Transportation Command calls for an extension of helicopter services that would be based in Obo, a city in the southeastern Central African Republic. The two helicopters will fly about 150 hours a month, with a special “surge” period that would add 30 more hours of flight time for a two-week period. The contract solicitation spells out requirements into November 2015.

While the helicopter contractor will fly troops into combat areas, the “contractor will not be required to fly within 1,000 meters of current and on-going reported kinetic operations or areas that have reported activity within 12 hours prior to mission execution,” the document says. “Kinetic operations are defined as situations where friendly forces are actively engaged under hostile fire.”

About 20 percent of the flight missions, the contract solicitation says, will be flown at night and require the use of night-vision goggles to make navigation possible.

Kony has been engaged in a regional power struggle that started in Uganda in the 1980s and is accused of directing atrocities during that time. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court and is believed to be hiding in the Central African Republic. The international manhunt for Kony was delayed in March because of a coup in that long-troubled country.

The increased U.S. presence in sub-Saharan Africa, including the opening of a drone base in Niger, has created concerns in Congress about the cost of Operation Observant Compass and the need to spend money elsewhere. The House Armed Services Committee’s 2014 defense bill released in June contains a request for the Pentagon to send the committee a report by Sept. 30 asking for specific goals for the operation, how progress will be measured and how to transition U.S. forces out of the mission when it’s over.

“This issue is particularly pressing since the requirements for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets remain high in other regions of the continent of Africa, particularly in North and East Africa, due to al-Qaeda-affiliated and oriented terrorist groups,” the House committee report said.

The House defense bill doesn’t specify an amount for ISR spending. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2014 defense bill calls for a $15 million cut in ISR spending, but the Senate Appropriations Committee’s 2014 spending includes a $30 million increase.

None of the bills has passed the full House or Senate so far this year.

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