The State Department is planning to send a consular “fly away” team to the Port of Sudan to help evacuating Americans get home, three people familiar with the plans said.
If a final decision is made to send the team, they would perform similar duties to consular officers who were sent to Afghanistan in 2021 during the evacuation of Kabul. An unknown number of officials will check documents and get evacuees on to flights or ships out of Sudan. People fleeing the fighting have described the 500-miles overland journey from the capital of Khartoum to the port as perilous.
The conflict in Sudan has grown over the last week, as two opposing generals are using their forces to seize control of the country. More than 400 have been killed in the fighting around the large country and roughly 4,000 people have been injured.
The Biden administration has repeatedly vowed it would not organize a large-scale evacuation operation like in Kabul. But President Joe Biden’s team has authorized the use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to assure the safety of evacuating convoys and placed assets in the region for contingencies.
Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesperson, said the administration “sent additional consular staff to the region to support U.S. citizens departing Sudan” but didn’t say specifically where they were going. Consular officers in Washington, D.C. are also working “around the clock” to assist Americans seeking to flee, he said.
The State Department has asked the military for logistical support to move the fly away team, which is currently in Djibouti working to complete the necessary paperwork, to the Port of Sudan, according to a Defense Department official. Another person, a former U.S. official, said the fly away team was assembled and making the necessary preparations for the Port of Sudan deployment. Both were granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.
The Pentagon is looking at options to move the team by ship or by air, the DoD official said. This could include making the 800-mile trip on MV-22 Ospreys stationed in Djibouti, or traveling on one of the nearby U.S. Navy ships.
The U.S. government is currently looking at “what’s the fastest, safest way” to get the consular team to the port, the official said. At the moment, the military “has not been tasked to do anything other than position ships in case they are needed.”
One option to move the team by sea is the destroyer USS Truxtun, which is already on standby off the Port of Sudan. A number of other ships are en route to the region, including the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller, which can act as a floating base or transfer station, and the expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick, operated by the Military Sealift Command and designed to rapidly move troops or equipment, according to the DoD official.
There is also an additional supply ship en route to sustain the ships in the region, the DoD official said.
The news that the U.S. is planning to send a consular team to Sudan comes days after a U.S. special forces team conducted a daring mission into the country to evacuate U.S. embassy personnel from Khartoum. About 100 troops made the trip from Djibouti to the capital in three MH-47 twin-rotor transport aircraft, a heavily armed version of the CH-47 Chinook piloted by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment known as the “Night Stalkers.”
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