The Defense Department has no immediate plans to mount a mass airlift in Sudan to rescue thousands of Americans left behind after the U.S. shuttered its embassy amid fighting between warring factions that have left the country in chaos.
The Pentagon on Saturday successfully evacuated about 100 diplomats and staffers from the U.S. embassy in Khartoum in a daring nighttime helicopter raid using dozens of special operations troops. But any Americans still remaining in Sudan will be expected to make their own way to safety, the Pentagon and White House said, with U.S. officials offering what support they can.
The State Department is taking the lead role in Sudan, with the Pentagon saying it is ready to support any future efforts. But sending U.S. transport planes there to ferry the estimated 16,000 Americans in the country to safety isn’t in the cards.
“The State Department is making itself available to communicate with those Americans wishing to leave to find the best possible way for them to get out of the country,” Air Force Brig. General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Monday. “We are going to continue to look at a variety of means and methods should the State Department call on us for support.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will continue to help Americans in Sudan plan for their own safety and provide regular updates about the situation in the area.
“We will also continue to coordinate with our allies and partners, as well as our local partners, on efforts to ensure the safety of their personnel,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement over the weekend. He announced on Monday that the warring rival generals vying for power in Khartoum have agreed to extend a cease-fire for another 72 hours to allow rescue efforts to proceed.
The Biden administration likely wants to avoid a situation in Sudan that resembles the botched evacuation of Afghanistan, where thousands of desperate Afghans flooded the airport tarmac in Kabul and 13 American troops died in a bombing that also killed more than 100 Afghan civilians. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at a White House briefing cited what he said were several past international crises in which the U.S. government and military did not organizer major extraction campaigns for Americans caught in the turmoil.
While the U.S. government has ruled out a broad rescue operation, allies such as Italy and Germany have sent military transport aircraft there to ferry hundreds of their citizens to safety, a far smaller operation than the one faced in Washington
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is holding daily meetings with officials from U.S. Africa Command, the Joint Staff, and other military organizations on the ongoing situation in Sudan, General Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon.
The USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is now off the coast of Sudan following the embassy evacuation. The U.S. is sending the USS Lewis B. Puller, an Expeditionary Sea Base ship, to the area.
“It will stay there, awaiting further orders,” General Ryder said. “These capabilities will be there should we need to use them in support of State Department efforts.”
The Pentagon also has drones flying over the area to gather intelligence about the situation on the ground. The mission includes locating possible land routes out of Sudan, officials said.
Officials at U.S. Africa Command in Europe have been in contact with both sides of the current conflict — Sudan’s military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the rebel Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohamed Hamdan. Gen. Ryder declined to describe the conversations in detail but said U.S. officials briefed them on their embassy evacuation plans.
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