Biden evacuates U.S embassy in Sudan, makes no promises to 16,000 Americans left behind

April 24, 2023
Matthew Boose

The Biden administration evacuated the U.S. embassy in Sudan as the African country plunges into civil war, with no promises of a safe return home for thousands of Americans left behind.

Fewer than 100 diplomats and their family members were rescued from Khartoum in a mission by U.S. special forces on Sunday.

Biden called the violence "unconscionable" and said the U.S. would work "to the extent possible" to rescue Americans still in the country.

Biden evacuates embassy

An American citizen is among the more than 400 killed in the hostilities that erupted on April 15.

The embassy had warned Saturday that it could not help private U.S. citizens in Sudan "due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport."

The evacuation was carried out with help from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia, the White House said. The administration dismissed claims from the Rapid Support Forces, one of the belligerents to the conflict, that they helped with the evacuation.

“They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation,” Under Secretary of State for Management John Bass said.

Sudan is in the middle of a violent power struggle between two rival generals who seized power in a coup two years ago, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who leads Sudan's army, and the head of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

Troubled history

Sudan has been politically unstable for its entire modern history. The region has been torn apart for decades by violent conflict between the Arab-led government in Khartoum and non-Arab rebels in the south, which broke away and formed their own state in 2011.

The Rapid Support Forces was formed from the Janjaweed militia, which was accused of participating in a genocide in Darfur under Omar al-Bashir, the Islamist dictator who ruled Sudan for decades.

Al-Bashir was deposed in 2019 in a military coup amidst mass protests. Another coup in 2021 left a military junta in charge, led by Burhan and Dagalo.

Deja vu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the belligerents agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire. He said the administration is in touch with "dozens" of Americans in Sudan who want to get out.

Many are sure to see a familiar echo in the crisis, which comes nearly two years after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, widely seen as the lowest moment of the Biden presidency.

Thirteen U.S. soldiers died in a terrorist attack during the desperate scramble to end the 20-year U.S. presence in the country, and dozens of Americans are still stranded there under Taliban rule.

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