US preparing for possible evacuation of embassy staff in Sudan

Pentagon says it moved ‘military capabilities’ near Sudan in case it needs to facilitate departure of embassy personnel.

Washington, DC – The United States is deploying additional “military capabilities” in the region around Sudan to prepare for the possible evacuation of US embassy staff in Khartoum if the violence worsens, the Pentagon has said.

US Defense Department spokesperson Phil Ventura said on Thursday that the Pentagon is conducting “prudent planning” for various scenarios in Sudan, where the conflict between generals leading a paramilitary group and the army may turn into an all-out war.

“As part of this, we are deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of US Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it,” Ventura said in a statement.

US forces have been deploying to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the Reuters and AP news agencies reported, citing administration officials.

Clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who are loyal to General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, broke out last week, killing more than 300 people and trapping thousands in their homes in Khartoum.

On Thursday, Washington urged both generals to extend a fragile ceasefire that expired late on Thursday to cover the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday until Sunday.

US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel stressed that there is “no military solution” to the crisis.

“In the strongest terms, the United States condemns the violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces,” he said.

Patel added that US embassy personnel in Khartoum remain safe and accounted for. He said American citizens in the country should “remain indoors”, stay off the roads, shelter in place and avoid travelling.

The airport in Khartoum has been closed down for days, with both sides of the conflict pushing to control it.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken by phone to al-Burhan and Hemedti earlier this week, also calling for a ceasefire.

“The people of Sudan have made clear their democratic aspirations,” Blinken said on Tuesday. “After months of talks, they were close to restoring a civilian-led government.  We remain committed to helping them achieve that goal. At the same time, we will take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our people.”

After years of animosity, ties between Khartoum and Washington had been warming up since the Sudanese military removed longtime President Omar al-Bashir from power in 2019 following months of anti-government protests.

The two countries re-established diplomatic ties in 2020. Sudan also agreed to normalise relations with Israel, and was removed from the US’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism”.

Over the past year, Washington has been urging a transition to civilian and democratic rule in Sudan.

The Sudanese military staged a coup against the civilian government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in October 2021, leading to his resignation early in 2022.

Before the recent violence erupted, earlier this month, Sudan’s leaders were set to sign a deal to return the country to its democratic transition, but the accord was delayed because of outstanding disagreements.

“The important thing now is to achieve a truce, at least for the Eid period,” Timothy Carney, former US ambassador to Sudan, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

He said he believes Washington “is working in cooperation with the regional powers to maintain verbal pressure on the combatants to reach a truce that leads to negotiations”.

Source: Al Jazeera