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Tipsheet

U.S. Prepping for Possible Evacuation of Embassy in Sudan...But Not Civilians

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Pentagon announced on Thursday that U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was planning for "various contingencies" in Sudan amid recent unrest in the country, including deploying resources nearby in the event it becomes necessary to secure the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum or conduct an evacuation of American diplomatic staff.

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According to the DoD:

The Department of Defense, through U.S. Africa Command, is monitoring the situation in Sudan and conducting prudent planning for various contingencies.  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 U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it.  As a matter of policy and security, we do not speculate on potential future operations.

While the Pentagon's official line is that it does not speculate on future operations, officials said that U.S. service members have been pre-positioned in Djibouti.

Asked about the situation in Sudan during Thursday's White House press briefing, the National Security Council's John Kirby said things remain "dire" in Khartoum and the Biden administration is "still very concerned about the violence there" after a ceasefire negotiated earlier fell apart within a matter of hours. 

Kirby added that the Biden administration has "accountability" for all U.S. government personnel currently caught in the crossfire in Khartoum and continues to urge the factions "to stop this violence."

But when Kirby was pressed about how this situation was similar or different from the Biden administration's chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, he didn't inspire confidence.

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Saying that "pre-positioning forces is not a new idea," Kirby reminded that "the president ordered the pre-positioning of military forces nearby so that they could be ready and they were" when the situation at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) devolved into deadly chaos. 

"This is an outgrowth of things we've learned" since Afghanistan, Kirby continued — without offering any lessons that were learned from the withdrawal that saw Afghan allies falling from the landing gear of departing aircraft and 13 U.S. service members killed by a suicide bomber. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy Khartoum issued a "security alert" for Sudan's capital and surrounding areas "where there is ongoing fighting, gunfire, and security forces activity" in addition to "reports of assaults, home invasions, and looting." The alert warned that "U.S. citizens are strongly advised to remain indoors, shelter in place until further notice and avoid travel to the U.S. embassy" which "remains under a shelter in place order and cannot provide emergency consular services."

What's more, the U.S. Embassy Khartoum cautioned that "[d]ue to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of private U.S. citizens."

Asked why the Biden administration was not preparing or offering military assistance to evacuate U.S. citizens in Sudan, Kirby didn't have an answer. "The focus right now is just to pre-position" U.S. forces "in case they're needed," Kirby said before emphasizing "no decision" has yet been made about evacuating anyone.

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In a familiar comment, Kirby stated that the Biden administration had previously "advised Americans not to travel to Khartoum," seemingly suggesting it was their fault for being there when fighting broke out and thus not worthy of evacuation assistance from the Biden administration.

So, the embassy is locked down, Americans are advised against trying to get to the embassy, the DoD is preparing for a potential evacuation of diplomatic staff, it currently remains unsafe for the Biden State Department or DoD to evacuate private citizens, and Kirby says that the Biden administration is informing its decisions with what happened in Afghanistan at HKIA in 2021, a chaotic withdrawal that it considers a success.

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