The Pentagon has deployed forces and is developing options to assist in the possible evacuation of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, but the White House said Friday there are no plans for now for a broader pullout of the potentially thousands of other Americans from the African country where warring factions are in a violent conflict.
The troop moves by the U.S. military are intended “to ensure that we provide as many options as possible, if we are called on to do something. We haven’t been called on to do anything yet,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a news conference in Germany. Austin and U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, held meeting meetings with defense leaders from other countries to discuss additional support for Ukraine.
An estimated 16,000 private U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum as being in Sudan. The State Department has cautioned that that figure probably is inaccurate because there is no requirement for Americans to register nor is there a requirement to notify the embassy when they leave.
“It’s absolutely imperative that U.S. citizens in Sudan make their own arrangements to stay safe in these difficult circumstances,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in Washington.
He added that “Americans should have no expectation of a U.S. government coordinated evacuation at this time. And we expect that that’s going to remain the case.”
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For embassy staff, according to an American official, a small number of U.S. troops have begun arriving in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where the U.S. is pre-positioning forces and equipment to assist in any potential evacuation. The official said Army soldiers are being tapped for the task.
The U.S. troops are being moved to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Evacuation planning for Sudan got underway in earnest on Monday after a U.S. Embassy convoy was attacked in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.
The conflict between Sudan’s military and a rival paramilitary force is worsening. The military has ruled out negotiations and said it would only accept surrender as a temporary cease-fire ended, raising the likelihood of a renewed surge in the nearly weeklong violence that has killed hundreds.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations, said Milley discussed the situation with defense officials from Germany, Italy and Canada, among others. One topic was ensuring that any potential evacuation efforts did not conflict.
The U.S. State Department said Friday that an American citizen had died in Sudan, but did not have further details.
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“We are in touch with the family and offer our deepest condolences to them on their loss. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add,” the department said in a statement.
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