U.S. Special Forces have joined African troops in the hunt for Ugandan guerrilla warlord Joseph Kony.
Last year, President Barack Obama ordered 100 Special Operations troops to be deployed to the region in search for Kony. The American troops arrived in the region several months ago and currently serve in an advise-and-assist role to strengthen the capacity of regional forces in their search for the warlord, who is believed to be hiding in the vast forests and hinterlands of Central Africa.
"Kony is definitely still a threat. He's been on the run. He's on the decline, and in survival mode, but he is still dangerous and he's going to be dangerous until the LRA are eliminated," a captain with the U.S. Special Forces told CNN.
Kony is the head of the notoriously brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which operated in Uganda for nearly 20 years and currently has a presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
As a result of Kony's LRA an estimated 100,000 people were killed in Uganda between 1986 and 2007. Since 2008, the LRA has killed an estimated 2,400 people and thousands more have been abducted, internally displaced, or made into refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, according to nonprofit organization Resolve Uganda.
Kony was indicted in 2005 by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes that include murder, child enslavement, rape, mutilation, torture, and abduction, but has managed to evade capture.
The warlord reportedly claims that he and his army have been carrying out a mission to establish a Uganda ruled by the Bible's Ten Commandments.
Kony and his LRA became household names in March when the San Diego-based nonprofit organization Invisible Children launched its "KONY 2012" campaign. The campaign video titled "Kony 2012" was made by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, and within six days broke YouTube records and became the most viewed viral video of all time.
The video stirred debate and drew criticism from academics and experts that argued that a complex problem had been overly simplified and that little historical narrative was given to the audience to educate them on the scope of the problems Ugandans are currently facing.
"Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn't been for 6 years," former Foreign Policy intern and Ph.D student at Oxford, Michael Wilkerson, wrote on a Foreign Policy blog.
"The LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality," he added.
Invisible Children, in response to the criticism, argued that the main goal of "Kony 2012" was to ensure that the warlord and his LRA would eventually be stopped from carrying out atrocities in Central Africa.
"When we launched KONY 2012, our intention was to share the story of Joseph Kony with new people around the world," Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey said in March. "Our goal has always been the same, it's always been one thing and that is to stop the violence of the LRA permanently and help restore the war-affected communities."
Although the Invisible Children campaign sparked controversy, its effort to educate the masses and propel forward a movement to once and for all capture Kony appears to be working.
"Let me be honest, there was some constituent pressure here. Did 'Kony 2012' have something to do with this? Absolutely," one American official working with U.S. forces in Africa told The New York Times.