By Abimbola Ogunnaike with agency report
United States Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has disclosed on Friday, 21 April, 2023 that its military is preparing options to evacuate the US Embassy in Sudan as the Joe Biden administration weighed whether to pull personnel out of the country’s increasingly unstable capital.
“We’ve deployed some forces into theater to ensure that we provide as many options as possible if we are called on to do something. And we haven’t been called on to do anything yet. No decision on anything has been made,” Austin told a news conference at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. T
wo US officials said a decision on a possible evacuation of the embassy is expected soon, but it was unclear if there will be a public announcement.
Forces commanded by two previously allied leaders of Sudan’s ruling council began a violent power struggle last weekend. Hundreds have died so far and a nation reliant on food aid has been tipped into what the United Nations calls a humanitarian catastrophe.
The White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby, said President Biden approved a plan this week to move US forces nearby in case they are needed to help evacuate American diplomats.
“We are simply pre-positioning some additional capabilities nearby in case that they’re needed,” Kirby told reporters.
With the airport in Khartoum caught in the fighting and the skies unsafe, nations including the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Spain have been unable to evacuate embassy staff.
A Western diplomat said the evacuation situation in Sudan is one of the most difficult they have seen, with Americans likely focused on getting a ceasefire and using that to get personnel out.
“In this case, the civil war starts in the capital, fighting is exactly where the embassies are and where the airport is. It’s unusually difficult,” the diplomat said.
A US Africa policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former director for African affairs at the National Security Council, Cameron Hudson, said the level of violence in Khartoum makes the situation for evacuation unpredictable.
“The major challenge is there’s a war going on across all corners of the city and the international airport in the middle of the city is not functional right now, so the challenge is moving people to a safe space to evacuate them,” Hudson said.
Washington has said private American citizens in Sudan should have no expectation of a US government-coordinated evacuation. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said the United States was in touch with several hundred American citizens understood to be in Sudan.
Earlier on Friday, the State Department confirmed the death of one US citizen in the country.
Other countries and the United Nations are also looking at how they can evacuate citizens and employees.
The United Nations(UN) has been trying to extract staff from “very dangerous” zones in Sudan to move them to safer locations, the top UN aid official in Sudan, Abdou Dieng, said on Thursday. 20 April, 2023 Dieng said he had been moved to a safer area on Wednesday.
The UN has about 4,000 staff in Sudan, of which 800 are international staff. A UN source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were a further 6,000 UN staff family members and associated personnel in Sudan.
Switzerland said on Friday it was examining ways to evacuate nationals from Sudan, and Sweden said it will evacuate embassy staff and families as soon as possible.
Spanish military aircraft are on standby and ready to evacuate some 60 Spanish nationals and others from Khartoum, and South Korea sent a military aircraft to stand by at a US military base in Djibouti to evacuate its nationals when possible.