Obo was the first place in the Central African Republic that Kony's Lord's Resistance Army attacked in 2008; today, it's one of four forward operating locations where U.S. special forces have paired up with local troops and Ugandan soldiers to seek out Kony, who is believed likely to be hiding out in the rugged terrain northwest of the town. For seven years he has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity after his forces cut a wide and bloody swath across several central African nations with rapes, abductions and killings.
Part of the LRA's success in eluding government forces has been its ability to slip back and forth over the porous borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. But since late last year, U.S. forces have been providing intelligence, looking at patterns of movement, and setting up better communications to link the countries' forces together so that they can better track the guerrilla force. Sent by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, the 100 U.S. soldiers are split up about 15 to 30 per base, bringing in American technology and experience to assist local forces.
Exact details on specific improvements that the American forces have brought to the table, however, are classified, to avoid giving Kony the ability to take countermeasures. "We don't necessarily go and track into the bush but what we do is we incorporate our experiences with the partner nation's experiences to come up with the right solution to go out and hopefully solve this LRA problem," said Gregory, a 29-year-old captain from Texas, who would only give his first name in accordance with security guidelines.
The U.S. troops also receive reports from local hunters and others that they help analyze together with surveillance information. "It's very easy to blame everything on the LRA but there are other players in the region - there are poachers, there are bandits, and we have to sift that to filter what is LRA," he said. Central African Republic soldiers largely conduct security operations in and around the town, while Ugandan soldiers, who have been in the country since 2010, conduct longer-range patrols looking for Kony and his men.
Since January, they have killed seven LRA fighters in the area and captured one, while rescuing 15 people abducted by the group including five children, said their local commander, Col. Joseph Balikuddembe. There has been no contact with the LRA since March, however, according to Ugandan Army spokesman Col. Felix Kulayigye, who said the LRA now is in survival mode. The LRA is thought to today number only around 150 to 300 die-hard fighters. "They're hiding," he said. "They are not capable of doing."