On April 22, 2023, Saturday evening (EST), U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) evacuated just under 100 American embassy staff from the Khartoum, Sudan embassy. The evacuation took place at approximately 8:00 pm Saturday evening (Washington, D.C. time), about 3:00 am on Sunday morning (Khartoum time).
Screen capture of FIightaware24 showing presence of AJ-130J Ghostrider over Sudan on Saturday evening, April 23, 2023 (Washington, D.C. time).
Air Activity Over Sudan. OSINT twitters began tweeting about the presence of U.S. aircraft over Sudan on Saturday evening just prior to 8:00 pm (D.C. time). The @air_intel Twitter account reported that a HC-13J and two MC-130Js were over Sudan on Saturday evening. Social media from Sudan announced the presence of U.S. helicopters hovering over the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum (@War_Mapper Twitter). For a short while, Flightradar24 depicted an aircraft flying over Khartoum and labeled it as an AC-130J Ghostrider. There were likely more than one AC-130J in the air during the evacuation operation. It has been reported that three MH-47 Chinook helicopters departed Djibouti at 9 am Eastern on Saturday, landed in Ethiopia to refuel, and then proceeded for three more hours to Khartoum. Some news reports say six aircraft from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) were used. The air operation was conducted in the early morning hours of Sunday (local time) during periods of darkness by the ‘Night Stalker’ air crews.
On the Ground. According to news reporter Jim LaPorta, elements of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group participated in the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. Al-Monitor is reporting that the evacuation was conducted by US Navy SEAL Team 6 and Army Special Operations personnel, planned by US Africa Command and Joint Special Operations Command. It has been reported that the personnel were picked up helicopters. In the beginning days of the conflict the embassy personnel were ‘sheltering in place’ in various locations in Khartoum; but gathered at the embassy compound for evacuation by Friday night. The helicopters spent about one hour on the ground in Khartoum. There were a number of DoD assets for a NEO operation in the Sudan region; this being a relatively limited NEO DoD went with a JSOC and some SF elements.
News Announcements of the Evacuation. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announced on their Twitter account that they had help coordinate and support the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy staff. It is a matter of speculation exactly how much the RSF actually assisted in the evacuation; the U.S. State Department says the cooperation was minimal. (DoS) Soon other social media accounts and news outlets were sending out bulletins about the evacuation of embassy personnel approximately 9:00 pm (D.C. time).
Flown to Djibouti. The evacuees were flown to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where they either were bunked down for the remainder of the early morning or immediately transloaded onto waiting C-17s for a military base in Europe. Camp Lemonnier is a big naval base that at one time housed over 2,500 U.S. military service personnel. The flight of the helicopters from DJ to Sudan and back encompassed 800 miles each way. Among those evacuated were members of the Marine Corps who had been providing security for the embassy on a permanent basis.
Coordination Aspects of NEO. The governments of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia aided the U.S. evacuation operation. The evacuation was under the command of U.S. Africa Command and conducted in close coordination wit the U.S. State Department.
News stories on the Evacuation:
- “US evacuates embassy in Sudan’s capital Khartoum”, Al-Monitor, April 22, 2023.
- “US embassy personnel in Sudan evacuated amid violent conflict”, Fox News, April 22, 2023.
- “US Embassy Staff Evacuated from Sudan”, Voice of America, April 22, 2023.
- “Statement from President Joe Biden on the Situation in Sudan”, White House, April 23, 2023.
Statement by SECDEF: (link)
“Today, at the direction of the President, the U.S. military conducted a successful operation to safely evacuate U.S. government personnel out of Sudan. This action, led by U.S. Africa Command and conducted in close coordination with the U.S. State Department, demonstrates the Department of Defense’s support for our nation’s diplomatic personnel. I’m proud of our extraordinary service members who executed and supported this operation with outstanding precision and professionalism. We also thank our allies and partners, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia, which were critical to the success of this operation.”Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin II on Sudan, April 22, 2023
And the American Citizens? The United States has stated that the evacuation was only for U.S. embassy staff. There may be a larger, coalition led operation for the evacuation of foreign nationals. There are approximately 16,000 Americans in Sudan; many of them likely dual-citizens. The Pentagon and State Department are exploring options to make the overland route out of the country more viable. The land route would likely end at Port Sudan where the American citizens could board U.S., partner nation, or contracted ships for a voyage to other locations – possibly Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Inquiries related to U.S. citizens in Sudan should be directed to ACSKhartoum@state.gov. The land route takes approximately 12 hours according to some news sources and it is a dangerous trip that may not provide fuel, water, and food along the route.
DoD Assistance for American Citizens? U.S. Naval vessels from the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain are being moved to the Red Sea where they will position off the coast near Port Sudan. It was announced (DoS) that a deconfliction cell would be established at the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany to coordinate and support an overland route. DoD will use intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to explore viable and safe land routes for American citizens.
The Department of State has suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. On the evening of April 22, 2023 it issued another advisory – do not travel to Sudan. It advises those Americans in Sudan to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and to review the OSAC Country Security Report for Sudan.
THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY AND WILL BE UPDATED AS NEW INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE.
Maps: Derived from CIA maps.
“Crisis in Sudan”, SOF News, April 21, 2023.
Briefing, Department of State, April 22, 2023
Sudan NEO by national-security.info
Maps of Sudan by national-security.info
NEO References by national-security.info