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Pentagon ramps up Kony manhunt in Africa

The Pentagon is flooding Uganda with more troops and equipment to kill or capture the infamous warlord Joseph Kony.

U.S. commanders have begun setting up small airbases inside Uganda and moving Air Force CV-22 Ospreys and aircrews to those locations to ferry American special forces and local troops quickly across the country, according to The Washington Post

The influx of men and material into Uganda will end up doubling the number of American forces on the ground there, representing a dramatic expansion of the quietly escalating war against Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). 

“We’re at a new stage in this mission,” Col. Kevin Leahy, commander of the American special forces teams in Uganda, told the Post.

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Most recently, Sudanese troops with the assistance of U.S. special operations units raided an LRA compound in September, flushing rebel fighters into the surrounding jungle while tracking them with American unmanned aircraft. 

“All of the pieces are coming together, and we’re pushing on all fronts," Leahy said. 

President Obama deployed U.S. special operations forces to Uganda to hunt Kony and LRA leaders as part of Operation Observant Compass in October 2011. 

At the time, 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, Department of Defense officials assured Congress and the American public. 

But as Kony continued to evade capture, Obama ordered U.S. forces to extend their mission in Uganda last April. 

That following month, Senate lawmakers on the Armed Services Committee funneled $50 million to "enhance and expand" intelligence and surveillance support for U.S. forces in Uganda as part of the fiscal 2013 Defense spending bill. 

The hunt for Kony was bolstered in the United States last year 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. 

Aside from operations in Uganda, U.S. military and intelligence officials are also fighting to keep al Qaeda's rapidly growing cells in Africa in check. 

Earlier this month, U.S. special operations forces launched a night raid against a Somali stronghold of the al-Shabaab terror group, days after the group's deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.

The counterterrorism operation was aimed at capturing a "high value al-Shabaab terrorist leader" inside Somalia, according to a U.S. official.

Al-Shabaab and the Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram have steadily increased their ties with al Qaeda's Africa cell, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in recent years.

Those affiliations have resulted in the al Qaeda cell evolving into one of the organization's most dangerous factions, second only to al Qaeda's Yemeni cell.

U.S. military and intelligence officials are still having significant difficulty gaining any insight into African-based terror groups.

The relatively small network of intelligence assets in Africa pales in comparison to American assets in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the resulting blow back from the Middle East counterterror campaign has manifested itself with the rise of al Qaeda factions gaining control of wide swaths of territory in North and Western Africa.