Pentagon considers sending contingent of troops to Port Sudan to help remaining American citizens amid war newsusface

Washington — The U.S. is considering sending a contingent of troops to Port Sudan to coordinate the departure of American citizens seeking to leave Sudan, U.S. officials told CBS News Monday.

The troops would be part of the Pentagon’s effort to make the over 500-mile land route between Khartoum and Port Sudan a viable way out for up to several thousand Americans who remain in Sudan.

The U.S. is planning multiple different courses of action if called upon. One of those options includes sending some U.S. troops to Port Sudan, although a final decision has not been made, according to a U.S. official. 

The U.S. military is already flying reconnaissance drones near the land route to identify potential threats, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview on “CBS Mornings.”  While Kirby stressed that it is “not safe right now for another evacuation attempt,” the Defense Department is looking for avenues for Americans to find a way out of Sudan.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two Sudanese factions fueling the bloodshed —the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces — had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, starting at midnight. The U.S. is coordinating with partners and stakeholders to “assist in the creation of a committee to oversee the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of a permanent cessation of hostilities and humanitarian arrangements in Sudan,” Blinken said.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the U.S. has deployed “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to support land evacuation routes which Americans are using and we’re moving naval assets within the region to provide support. American citizens have begun arriving in Port Sudan and we are helping to facilitate their onward travel.” 

The Pentagon is sending ships off the coast of Port Sudan to help Americans who arrive there. According to a U.S. official, there is currently only one U.S. Navy ship — a destroyer — in the Red Sea.  

“The idea here is to have these capabilities offshore available should we need, for example, to transport citizens to another location, should we need to provide medical care, those kinds of things,” Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Monday.

A supply ship belonging to the Military Sealift Command is en route to the Red Sea. A plan for evacuation from Port Sudan is still underway, according to U.S. officials, but the most likely scenario is to contract with commercial ferries to take people across to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. 

U.S. special forces, including the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six, evacuated about 87 people — 72 of them U.S. diplomats — from the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum over the weekend. The forces traveled 800 miles aboard helicopters from Djibouti to Khartoum and back, a 17-hour-long mission. 

Other countries have flown their nationals out of the Wadi Sayyidna airfield north of Khartoum. 

Evacuation efforts continued Monday as citizens of several countries joined a United Nations convoy of vehicles to make the roughly 525-mile journey from Khartoum to Port Sudan. 

Kirby told “CBS Mornings” that dozens of U.S. citizens were in the U.N. convoy. 

Blinken said Monday that the majority of U.S. citizens in Sudan are dual nationals who have decided to make their lives in Sudan and stay, “but for those who are seeking to leave, we’ll continue to engage directly with them, to see what we can do to — to help them, and as I said, with allies and partners as well to help facilitate their — their departure.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report said that the Pentagon planned to send a contingent of troops to Port Sudan to help Americans remaining there to leave Sudan, but the Defense Department said later Monday that the decision had not yet been finalized.

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