Senate pumps more cash more into Kony manhunt in Africa

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to set aside $50 million to "enhance and expand" intelligence and surveillance support for the roughly 100 American special forces troops and their Ugandan counterparts tracking Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). 

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The LRA has waged violent insurgency in Uganda, South Sudan and the Republic of Congo since the 1980s, manning its army by kidnapping children and forcing them to take up arms against government troops. 

The funding measure for the Kony operation was included in the committee's draft version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill approved on Thursday. 

President Obama deployed U.S. special operations forces to Uganda as part of Operation Observant Compass last October. 

The hunt for Kony was bolstered in the United States in March after the 30-minute film “Kony 2012” went viral. The video, produced by the nonprofit group Invisible Children put the international spotlight back onto the plight of LRA's child soldiers. 

American troops were sent to the African nation with clear orders to provide intelligence and logistics support to local forces looking to capture Kony and quash the LRA permanently. 

No U.S. troops would be participating in combat operations tied to the Kony manhunt, DOD officials assured Congress and the American public at the time. 

Assistant Defense Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow told lawmakers last October that the mission "will not go on indefinitely." 

Pentagon officials had a clear plan to transition out of Uganda and allow local forces to "finish the job" he told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

In the months following the White House's decision, joint U.S. and Ugandan operations against the LRA have significantly marginalized the group's activities, according to Pentagon officials.

"They have had a significant impact" in putting pressure on Kony and LRA operations in Africa, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told reporters in April. Kony and  and his followers "have been less active" as a result, he said. 

Most recently, Ugandan troops, with the support of American forces, captured top LRA commander Caesar Acellam in Central Africa on May 12. However Kony has managed to elude African and American forces since the beginning of Operation Observant Compass. 

Despite those successes, U.S. commitment to the Kony mission in Africa has deepened. 

American military involvement in the mission was only supposed to last 150 days before administration officials would reassess its role. 

In April, President Obama announced plans to extend deployments of American special forces in Uganda, saying it was “part of [U.S] regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA," in Africa.

The funding approved by the Senate defense committee on Thursday will support that extended tour of duty in Uganda. 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in February that DOD planed to move U.S. special operations forces and counterinsurgency specialists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan into Africa and South America. 

The move was part of the White House's new national security strategy released that month.