US Military Evacuates Embassy Staff From War-Torn Sudan

US military forces have successfully evacuated the American embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, as a civil war rages between two rival generals. 

In early hours of Sunday morning in Sudan, three US helicopters carried nearly 100 Americans about 760 miles southeast to Camp Lemonnier, a US Navy-led base in the the country of Djibouti that's home to about 4,000 US and allied service members, civilian personnel and DoD contractors. Anticipating the rescue mission, the Pentagon had pre-positioned additional forces there in recent days. 

via Britannica

Jennifer Griffin of Fox News reports the airlift comprised three Chinook helicopters that transited via Ethiopia and spent one hour on the ground in Sudan. About 100 special operations personnel participated. 

"Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract U.S. government personnel from Khartoum," said President Biden in a statement. "I am proud of the extraordinary commitment of our embassy staff, who performed their duties with courage and professionalism and...I am grateful for the unmatched skill of our service members who successfully brought them to safety."

Biden credited Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia as having been "critical to the success of our operation," and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Sudan. 

There's a shadow hanging over Sunday's success, however: There are some 16,000 more American citizens believed to be in Sudan. A chief obstacle to getting them out safely and efficiently is that fact that the main international airport in Khartoum has been severely damaged by heavy shelling. Additionally, military cargo planes would be needed for evacuations, since civilian airliners are staying away from the capital.

Given the situation, many can only shelter in place and hope for peace. On Thursday, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said there are no plans to evacuate them:

“Khartoum International Airport and Sudan’s border with Chad is closed and due to the unfortunate and uncertain and very fluid security situation in Khartoum, and again, because of the closure of the airport, it’s not safe to undertake a U.S. government coordinated evacuation of private American citizens at this time.”

Meanwhile, much of the capital is without electricity or water. 

On Friday, the State Department announced that an American had been killed in the fighting, which has taken at least 400 lives and injured more than 3,500. That American was not an embassy worker; no other details about the individual's identity or the circumstances of death were provided. 

The 8-day-old war pits the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Dagalo, who's also known as Hemedti, had allied with Burhan in a coup, and served as his deputy head of state before the two became sworn enemies.

The RSF told Reuters it coordinated in the American evacuation, but a senior US military official refuted that claim.  

A 72-hour truce declared Friday quickly failed as fighting continues to grip the capital of Khartoum, with battles also occurring elsewhere in the country. 

Maxar Technologies via AP: destroyed airplane in Khartoum International Airport, Sudan, April 17, 2023.

While initially there were indicators that Sudan's armed forces, bogged down in fighting the insurrection of the challenger Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti), was not going to actively facilitate the evacuation of foreigners, now it appears there are efforts underway to do so.

"The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) says it is coordinating efforts to evacuate diplomats from the United States, Britain, China and France out of the country on military aeroplanes," Al Jazeera reported Saturday. "Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said he has spoken to leaders of several countries requesting safe evacuations of their citizens," the report continues.

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