American Military Funded the Anti-LRA Operation Lightning Thunder

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The American army helped to plan and pay for Operation Lightning Thunder, the UPDF offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An article in today's edition of The New York times reports that a team of 17 American advisers and analysts from the Pentagon's new Africa Command worked closely with Ugandan officers on the missions. It provided satellite phones, intelligence and one million dollars in fuel. The New York Times report says no American forces ever got involved in the ground fighting conducted by the Uganda People's Defence Forces and soldiers from the South Sudan and Congolese governments. The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. Senior American military officials say this is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda. Operation Lightning Thunder intended to the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) after it refused to sign a peace treaty with the Government of Uganda. However the LRA leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack Congolese towns and have killed close to 900 civilians in retaliation for the attacks. American officials conceded that the operation did not go as well as intended, and that villagers had been left exposed. One source who was briefed on the operation, told The New York Times, that America insights and alternatives for the UPDF to consider, but Uganda was left to make the choices for the attack. Maj. Felix Kulayigye, the Ugandan military spokesman, declined to discuss the American involvement. He said there was no way to prevent the LRA massacres. To initiate the partnership with the American military, the Ugandan government reportedly asked the American Embassy in Kampala for help. The request was sent up the chain of command in the U.S. in November and was personally authorized by President Bush. According to the New York Times the American advisers and Ugandan officers used satellite imagery and Ugandan field intelligence reports to triangulate where they believed Joseph Kony and his fighters were hiding. On December 13th , the day before the attack, several American advisers traveled to a staging site near the Uganda-Congo border for a final coordination meeting. However thick fog delayed the attack by several hours, and the joint operation lost its element of surprise.