North Korea’s suicidal antics have largely dropped from the headlines, and Ukraine’s valiant struggle against Russian aggression barely achieves above-the-fold coverage. The threat of the month appears to be Red China and its almost inevitable invasion of Taiwan. But there is serious trouble brewing in Sudan.
Two factions are fighting for dominance: the head of the Sudanese Armed Forces and the de facto leader of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burham, and his erstwhile subordinate and partner, Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Daglo, commander of the formidable paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
So… who cares about Sudan? You should.
Two thousand foreign diplomats, their families, support staff, and security teams hunkered down in their embassies, homes, and barracks for over two weeks as hostilities mounted and corpses piled up in the streets of Khartoum. Dumbfounded “home offices” — the U.S. included — seemed stunned into inaction. As late as last Friday, they admitted to the press that they had “no plans to evacuate at this time.”
After two weeks of terror, with all airports closed, over 30 hospitals and health care facilities shut down, power and water compromised, and road traffic subject to shelling, Saudi Arabia finally took action. Coordinating with the warring factions for safe passage, the Saudis successfully convoyed over 91 Saudi citizens and 66 “friendly foreign nationals” to Port Sudan, where they embarked on five Saudi naval vessels for Jeddah. The 66 foreign nationals represented Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkha Faso, Canada, Kuwait, India, Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Emboldened by Saudi success, the U.S. flew Seal Team Six with three heavily armed MH-47 Chinook Helicopters and fixed-wing escorts from a marshaling center in Djibouti to the U.S. embassy in Khartoum. They successfully rescued 76 U.S. diplomats, staff, and family members and over a dozen consular staff from other missions and returned them safely to Djibouti. The United Kingdom followed suit, followed by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The Netherlands flew two C-130 Hercules transports to rescue 152 Dutch citizens who had “self-evacuated” to Jordan. Suddenly everyone else got in on the act, either by repatriating citizens or evacuating them to neighboring nations. Italy staged military jets in Djibouti to evacuate 140 nationals from Sudan if Khartoum International Airport ever opened. Israel, China, and Russia are on record as having rescued key personnel and initiated plans to evacuate their remaining respective citizens.
For the most part, the warring Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces assisted, or at least did not hinder, the precipitous flight of foreign delegates, their staff, and, to varying degrees, their remaining citizens. Neither needed increased scrutiny on the potential bloodbath to come.
There are still tens of thousands of foreign nationals trapped in Sudan — including over 16,000 American citizens in and around Khartoum — heeding their embassy’s monotonous instructions to “shelter in place.” They’ve already been “sheltering in place” for two weeks — fearing to leave their homes and apartments even to buy food and other necessities. Although only one American citizen has been confirmed killed, more than 600 people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured as the slaughter moves into its third week. The dramatic embassy rescues shined a brief spotlight on the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire and secured a tenuous three-day ceasefire. “Sheltering in place” is no longer an option.
As the fragile ceasefire fractures, the combatants maneuver for advantage.
Both armies possess formidable armaments, including Russian and Chinese main battle tanks, light tanks, armored cars, mobile anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, artillery, rocket launchers, attack helicopters, and Russian and U.S. fighters and transport aircraft. Both armies have access to sophisticated repair, production, and resupply resources. While the Sudanese Armed Forces is more than double the size of the Rapid Support Forces, the Rapid Support Forces controls the presidential palace, Khartoum International Airport, general command, and Port Khartoum. In addition to near-state-of-the-art weaponry, both factions command near-state-of-the-art media relations, opinion influencing, and propaganda capabilities.
At stake? For the Sudanese Armed Forces’ General Abdel Fattah al-Burham and Rapid Support Forces’ General Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Daglo, it’s power, wealth, and absolute control of the third-largest country in Africa. For China, it’s South Sudan oil, Sudan pipelines and refineries, and Port Khartoum. For Russia and its Wagner Group proxies, it’s gold, uranium, rare minerals, and Port Khartoum. For the U.S., it’s denying or at least curtailing all of the above. For Egypt, it’s the unfettered flow of the Nile, and they cannot and will not allow the Sudanese Armed Forces to fail. For Africa? For the neighboring countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, and South Sudan, the result of a bloody civil war in Sudan means almost certain destabilization and emboldened rebel action. For Arab Gulf countries and the two dozen European Union countries, it means economic entanglement, a renewed refugee crisis, potential military involvement, and yet another humanitarian crisis of “unprecedented scale.”