Two days after a special operations team helped evacuate the U.S. embassy in Sudan’s capital city Khartoum, the Defense Department is continuing to aid the State Department in aiding Americans wishing to leave the war torn country.
Current support includes “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to observe potential land routes out of Sudan and detect threats, and positioning naval assets off the coast of Sudan should they be needed,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters during a briefing, as well as a deconfliction cell at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Germany to help coordinate efforts will allied countries also evacuating their citizens.
The destroyer Truxtun is off the coast of Sudan, Ryder said, while the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller is en route, both of which can provide transport of evacuees. Surveillance assets include unmanned aerial vehicles, he added.
The U.S. first positioned troops at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, on Thursday in anticipation of an evacuation, as warring factions of Sudan’s military battled each other in Khartoum’s street. The groups are headed up by two military leaders who together executed a coup in fall 2021, but have not been able to set up a functioning government since.
Roughly 100 troops in three MH-47 Chinook helicopters moved 70 remaining embassy personnel out on Saturday night, the Associated Press reported, to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia.
“I am proud of the extraordinary commitment of our Embassy staff, who performed their duties with courage and professionalism and embodied America’s friendship and connection with the people of Sudan,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I am grateful for the unmatched skill of our service members who successfully brought them to safety.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “continues to convene daily meetings with AFRICOM joint staff and other key DoD officials on the situation in Sudan, and is committed the department to fully support State Department’s ongoing efforts,” Ryder said.
There are an estimated 16,000 U.S. citizens in Sudan, based on State Department registrations. The embassy on Saturday issued an alert that “due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of private U.S. citizens.”
“In just the last 36 hours since the embassy evacuation was completed, we’ve continued to be in close communication with U.S citizens and individuals affiliated with the U.S. government to provide assistance and facilitate available departure routes for those seeking to move to safety via land, air and sea,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Monday.
A United Nations convoy carrying some Americans arrived in Port Sudan on Monday as part of the ongoing efforts, Ryder said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.