WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Monday that the United States is trying to help thousands of Americans who have escaped from fighting in the East African nation of Sudan.The US embassy was closed over the weekend after all its consular staff were evacuated.
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jack Sullivan, supported the decision not to keep US troops or diplomats in Sudan, and many foreign countries were pulling out on Monday, as the US has done in some conflict zones in the past to help evacuate its citizens. .
Instead, Sullivan told reporters, the U.S. is now trying to remotely assist Americans trying to leave the country by road.
That includes helping Americans in Sudan connect with convoys of foreigners who are now trying to do just that by fighting their way to safety along Sudan’s eastern border.
Sullivan said the U.S. has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets along the route from the capital Khartoum to the country’s main port, Port Sudan, to detect security threats.
Fighting between armed factions loyal to two rival commanders now fighting for control of Sudan has made the journey dangerous for countless foreigners trying to escape the fighting.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he helped broker a 72-hour ceasefire to begin late Monday. This would prolong the nominal fighting associated with a Muslim holiday, which brought no reduction in fighting, but helped facilitate expulsions.
Convoys with Americans have begun arriving at Sudanese ports on the Red Sea, Sullivan said, and the United States is working with neighbors to get them safely across the border.
Foreign governments have evacuated hundreds of diplomats and other citizens to safety as Sudan plunges into chaos. In dramatic evacuation operations, convoys of foreign diplomats, teachers, students, workers and their families from dozens of countries have wound their way past militants to reach extraction points on tense front lines in Khartoum.
Others drove hundreds of miles to Sudan’s east coast. A stream of European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian military planes flew throughout Sunday and Monday to evacuate them.
US special operations forces carried out a dangerous evacuation of the US embassy in Sudan on Sunday, with helicopters sweeping in and out of the capital in less than an hour on the ground. No shots were fired and no major casualties were reported.
Using helicopters operated by the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Squadron, members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 were the main force in evacuating the embassy staff, U.S. officials said.
In Sudan, approximately 16,000 private US citizens are registered as present at the consulate. This number is rough because not all Americans register at the embassy or notify the embassy when they depart.
Sullivan reiterated that the administration continues to look at “every conceivable option” to help Americans withdraw from Sudan, but is not considering troops.
“It’s not standard practice for the United States to send the U.S. military to extract American citizens from war zones,” Sullivan said.
However, Sullivan omitted several recent instances of US forces rescuing American citizens from danger in foreign wars.
In 2006, the State Department and Defense Department collaborated in the modern-day evacuation of Americans, using helicopters, military warships, and a U.S.-contracted merchant ship to evacuate 15,000 Americans from Lebanon during cross-border fighting based in Lebanon. Hezbollah and Israel.
Between 1991 and 2004, U.S. Marines evacuated U.S. citizens from conflict zones at least 10 times, including going deep into the bush in Liberia to extract U.S. citizens in 2003; an evacuation in Haiti in 2004; and during several post-Cold War conflicts in Africa.
Even US diplomats have sometimes gained fame in the past for serving US citizens in US embassies and seeking to provide a stable presence. For example, in Liberia in 2003, then-US Ambassador John Blaney was in the Liberian capital as mortars bombarded the city, crossing the front lines to meet with fighters to successfully end the deadly fighting. This earned Blaney the Distinguished Service Award, the State Department’s highest honor.
Sullivan said the United States would do more to support and facilitate the departure of Americans, but noted that the State Department has been warning Americans in Sudan for years to leave the country.
And, “Americans are a free people. We can’t dictate where they travel, we can’t tell them they should or shouldn’t go to a certain place.
Brig Pentagon spokesman Gen Pat Ryder said a UN convoy with some evacuees reached Port Sudan on Monday.
Asked about other Americans who want to leave Sudan, Ryder said, “Right now, as far as we know, we’re not talking about a large number of Americans who want to leave Sudan, but again, in the coming days, we will stay. We’re coordinating closely with the State Department. They’re leading, We will be ready to support them.
Two Navy ships, the USS Lewis B. Puller, a frigate, and the USS Truxtun, a destroyer, were in the area, Ryder said. Truxton is off Sudan’s coast and Buller is en route, and both are available to transport civilians or provide medical aid if needed, he said.
AP writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.