Operation Observant Compass in the News

A version of this post appeared first on GlobalSecurity.org’s blog Frantic Goat.

Yesterday, the Washington Post published a good article on the unreported US mission to support efforts to support a number of African partners neutralize the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony. Though not mentioned in the Post’s piece, this operation is entitled Operation Observant Compass. The article does a good job pointing out the nuances of the effort, Codebook: Africa’s new profile and GlobalSecurity.org’s existing profile both provide important added granularity.

Lord's Resistance Army Area of Operations, for the period of 1 February 2012 to 31 January 2013

Lord’s Resistance Army Area of Operations, for the period of 1 February 2012 to 31 January 2013

For instance, the request to deploy CV-22B aircraft, likely from assets recently deployed to Europe, is part of an ongoing effort by the US mission to expand the ability of regional forces to respond to new intelligence. Increased mobility and intelligence gathering capability is really what the US brings to the counter-LRA effort (abbreviated C-LRA). The CV-22B aircraft would provide an immediate response to capabilities the US is currently in the process of sourcing through the private sector. In July of this year, Request for Information for both dedicated rotary-wing and fixed-wing support were put out, and these just recently turned into active solicitations for bids. Being able to rapidly shuttle personnel and supplies between the forward operating locations supporting Observant Compass is critical to the effort, as is noted in the Post article.

This gets into another point not elaborated on in that article. The operating location in Obo, Central Africa Republic had been a critical element of the operation. While the article notes that CAR essentially became a no-go area after the coup earlier this year, what is left out is that CAR was home to the C-LRA Operations Fusion Center (COFC), and had been the center of gravity for US support to the effort. After the coup, the US looked to make a shift into Nzara in South Sudan, another known operating location for this mission. This was evidenced by the fact that on 1 May 2013, the US Army issued a solicitation for a contract to provide up to 140,000 liters per month of JET-A aviation fuel and associated refueling services for the support of C-145 or comparable aircraft at Nzara Landing Zone, Republic of South Sudan. The C-145 is the US designation, recently applied, to the Polish M-28 Skytruck, which have been part of US Special Operations Command’s Non-Standard Aviation fleet and which are currently among the few air assets available to the C-LRA effort.

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