State Department Won’t Evacuate American Citizens from Sudan As Conflict Intensifies

‘We don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens’

Smoke rises from burning aircraft inside Khartoum Airport, Sudan / Reuters
April 24, 2023

The State Department says that it has no plans to evacuate the 16,000 American citizens in Sudan as fighting between the country’s military leaders plunges the country further into chaos.

The U.S. military on Saturday evacuated the 100 officials working at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, citing danger to embassy staff. But speaking to reporters over the weekend, a State Department official said that evacuation efforts would not extend to civilians.

"As a result of that uncertain security picture, as a result of the unavailability of the civilian airport, we don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens in Sudan at this time or in the coming days," undersecretary for management Ambassador John Bass told reporters over the weekend. "We don’t anticipate those security conditions are going to change in the near term."

Saturday’s evacuation was conducted without the approval of Sudan’s Rapid Security Forces, which comprise one side of the warring military factions.

"They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation," Bass said. "I would submit that’s as much in their self-interest as anything else."

Over 400 people have been killed since fighting broke out between Sudan's military and a rival paramilitary force. The conflict is a battle between former allies, Sudanese Army chief Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary leader Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The pair splintered this month over disagreements about the nation's direction and how certain paramilitary forces would be integrated into the larger military. The warring generals together led a military coup in 2021.

American citizens who want to flee the country have limited options at this time, according to Lieutenant General D.A. Sims, director of operations for Joint Staff J3, which coordinated the embassy evacuation.

The U.S. military is eying plans to "potentially make the overland route out of Sudan potentially more viable," Sims said. The Pentagon is currently "considering actions that may include: use of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats."

Naval assets could also be deployed outside the Port of Sudan to help Americans who arrive at that location, Sims said.

Still, the State Department maintains that it has no plans to organize a larger scale operation like the 2021 evacuation from Afghanistan that left 13 Americans dead. So far, one American citizen has been killed as the conflict rages on.