President Joe Biden on Saturday said that US government personnel had been evacuated from Sudan.
“Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract US government personnel from Khartoum,” Biden said in a statement.
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that all US personnel and their families had been evacuated and that operations at the US Embassy in Khartoum have been “temporarily suspended.”
A group of just over 100 special operations forces were involved in the extraction. The operation was led by US Africa Command and conducted in close coordination with the State Department, said Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defense.
The decision to evacuate the American personnel comes after a week of heavy fighting between rival military factions – the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF – which has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
Also on Sunday, a UN convoy was headed toward the Port Sudan land border to evacuate UN staff and aid group workers. While the two warring factions refused last week to honor a number of ceasefires, it appears that they agreed, for the most part, not to fire on aircraft carrying foreign diplomats or on UN vehicles.
However, for millions of Sudanese stranded in the war-torn country, there is no safe haven. Many of those trying to flee have been turned back from neighboring countries, like Egypt, for not having appropriate travel documents. There’s growing fear that this could spiral into a full-blown regional crisis: Around 20,000 people in the western Darfur region have crossed into neighboring Chad since the fighting began, and more than 2,000 have fled to South Sudan.
NORTHAM: Yeah. This was a mission involving special operations, Navy SEALs. It took place early morning Sudan time. And about 70 U.S. government workers, embassy personnel and their families, as well as a couple diplomats from other missions, were airlifted from the embassy, and it took about an hour, all told. The choppers had flown some 800 miles from Djibouti for this operation and then back again. So it was a long day. Lieutenant General D.A. Sims – he’s the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff – he indicated that it was a dangerous mission.
D A SIMS: Any time you’re flying, you know, at a hundred knots, very close to the ground in pitch black, there’s certainly some risk there.
NORTHAM: And, Adrian, it was important to the Biden administration to get this evacuation right, especially after the chaotic and deadly evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021.
FLORIDO: Yeah. So the U.S. has its embassy staff and government workers out of Sudan. What about other U.S. citizens? We understand there were about 16,000 in the country.
NORTHAM: There are a lot of reasons. I mean, geographically, it’s very important. Sudan is at crossroads between North and sub-Saharan Africa and also between the Middle East and Africa. It’s engaged with the Horn of Africa. It’s by the Nile River and has access to the Red Sea. And it’s rich in natural resources. The Wagner group has gold concessions there, and that’s the Russian group that’s got a lot of attention lately for its mercenary forces in Ukraine. So, Adrian, Sudan attracts the interest of many countries, and the fear is that a civil war there could pull in many players and really make the whole region unstable.
FLORIDO: Well, it’s been more than a week since the intense fighting in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan started. Are there still efforts underway to get a cease-fire in place?
NORTHAM: Yes. Yeah. The U.S. is still working on it, as is the UN and many other countries. But, you know, early ones have quickly broken, and the fighting is intense, you know, as these two sides, the Sudanese army and the paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, you know, duke it out to try to gain supremacy. And in the meantime, hundreds of people have died. The country’s health care system has pretty much collapsed, and there are shortages of food and water and electricity. It’s a terrible situation.
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