WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden has authorized the deployment of troops to northeast Africa as the U.S. considers an operation to remove U.S. diplomats from escalating violence in Sudan.
The Pentagon announced Thursday it is “deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it.”
Media outlets reported the troops would be sent to the country of Djibouti, about 1,000 miles from the fighting.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Phil Ventura declined to “speculate on potential future operations.”
John Kirby, coordinator of strategic communications for the National Security Council, said the U.S. has “good accountability of all our government personnel there” and Biden has been following the developments in Sudan. He said no decision has been made to extract personnel.
“The focus right now is on urging both sides to stop this violence, to abide by a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to get to people who need it,” Kirby said in a press briefing. “We want to make sure we have the capability ready in case it’s needed.”
Violence broke out over the weekend despite efforts by the U.S. and other governments to broker peace between the Sudanese military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, led by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan.
The conflict traces back to 2019, when a popular uprising led to a military coup that toppled the regime of President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power.
The paramilitary group, which started as a militia in the 2000s and worked alongside the military in suppressing a rebellion in the Darfur region, shared power with the military and civilian leaders for about two years before a 2021 coup ousted the civilian government.
The country was expected to shift to democracy in the coming months under a deal brokered by Western governments, but a power struggle between al-Burhan and Hamdan threatened to break into armed conflict.
The struggle appears to have arisen over personal animosity between the two generals. The framework for transitioning to democracy also called for the Rapid Support Forces to be integrated into the military, which would have stripped Hamdan of power.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, put out an alert on Wednesday that Americans should have no expectation of evacuation after the airport was shut down.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Americans have been warned to avoid the country since October. On Wednesday, she said civilians were running low on fuel, food, medicine and water as the violence has disrupted humanitarian aid.
Western governments have worried for the safety of their citizens and diplomats as the violence has spread throughout the country. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both sides over the weekend to urge a ceasefire, to no avail.
“Indiscriminate military operations have resulted in significant civilian deaths and injuries, and are recklessly endangering the Sudanese people, diplomats including U.S. personnel, and humanitarian aid workers,” Blinken said from Japan on Tuesday. “The people of Sudan have made clear their democratic aspirations. 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.”
There’s also concern the conflict could spill over in the region. Within the past few days, the Rapid Support Forces captured Egyptian soldiers and the Russian private military company Wagner Group has a facility in the country close to the fighting.
Blinken has also spoken with France, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iraq about the conflict.
“Ultimately, the immediate future lies in the hands of the generals who are engaged in this fight, and we call upon them to put peace first, to bring an end to the fighting, to get back to negotiations,” U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Monday. “That’s what the people of Sudan want, that’s what the people of Sudan deserve, and we will continue to seek ways to support that road back to peace.”Follow @TheNolanStout
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