Sudanis an essentially landlocked nation surrounded by nine other countries. Before AFRICOM, it rested at a border of several strategic commands; JTFHOA, CENTCOM and EUCOM, specifically. This border made things a little complicated depending on which direction the country was approached from, but beyond that, the volatile nature of the border region between Sudan and Chad & the Central African Republic, which seems comparable to the FATA in Afghanistan/Pakistan made things a little more complicated. Along the relatively small shore, piracy is a minor consideration as a majority of them come from Somalia, though it is only about 400 miles away. From a military standpoint, this maritime instability should give us cause to maintain a presence within aircraft carrier strike distance or well within cruise missile range should things go far awry in Sudan as they did around 1998 when Clinton ordered the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory for supporting Al Qaeda. Sudan-based Al Qaeda had bombed embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and America’s retaliatory attack is considered by analysts to be a turning point in U.S. policy towards Sudan.
In charting the path that has led us to the current state of affairs, we find that throughout the 1990s, Sudan was also accused of supporting local insurgencies neighboring countries. 1993, Sudan was even declared a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Relationships with such organizations such as harboring terrorists who attempted to assassinate the Egyptian president, Mubarak and even playing host to Bin Laden himself led to sanctions being levied against Sudan by the UN Security Council when Sudan was deemed a threat to international peace and security(UN Security Council 1996) In 1999, Sudan demonstrated a degree of compliance with counterterrorism measures when it signed the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism. Taking things a step further, in 2000, it ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing. The 1996 sanctions remained in effect until 2001 when it was deemed that Sudan was taking steps to comply with the provisions set forth by the UN(UN Security Council 2001). Since then, it’s withdrawn support for a number of organizations classified by America as terrorist organizations resulting in the UN Security Council’s 2001 terrorism-related sanctions being lifted. In fact, in 2007, the US Department of State stated that Sudan had become “a strong partner in the War on Terror”(Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism 2007). Economically, they produce a lot of petroleum for China who has recently shifted towards exerting some political pressure against Sudan’s support of terrorist organizations. Social issues include the several hundred displaced persons and refugees in the Darfur region.
As we move forward in the timeline to more contemporary issues, we can open with politics. In the 1990s, Sudan was also accused of supporting local insurgencies in Uganda, Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea (Bhattacharji 2008) though it’s unclear why. Furthermore, Sudan has a history of supporting of a number of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Abu Nidal Organization, Jamaat al-Islamiyya, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad(Bhattacharji 2008). Though it’s ceased any overt relationship with the previously mentioned organizations, Sudan continues maintain ties to Hamas(Bhattacharji 2008) an organization considered by America to be terrorist, which results in Sudan remaining on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
Since 2005, the U.S. State Department has linked Sudan to the Iraqi insurgency. The State Department claims that Sudanese and foreign nationals who traveled through Sudan have been detained as foreign fighters in Iraq. (Bhattacharji 2008). Sudan does have a history with al-Qaeda. When Bin Laden left Saudi Arabia in 1991, he moved to Khartoum, Sudan’s capitol, where he was protected by reigning Sudanese government that had recently imposed Islamic law in Sudan’s northern states. During bin Laden’s time in Sudan, Al-Qaeda was involved in a number of terrorist attacks. In 1992, two hotels were bombed in Yemen, the intended target: U.S. troops en route to Somalia. In 1995, al-Qaeda took part in an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Feeling increasing pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia, Sudan finally expelled bin Laden in 1996. However, bin Laden’s ties with Sudan manifested themselves again in 2006 when the United Nations planned to send a peacekeeping force to Darfur, bin Laden released a tape that told his supporters to go to Sudan to fight UN troops. Comparable messages were echoed the next year by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and again by bin Laden himself(Bhattacharji 2008)
Much like the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) along the Afghan/Pakistan border, lack of government control, rule of law, local warlords and militant factions, compounded by poverty and lack of security across a porous border makes for a less than ideal situation on several levels. From a military standpoint, there are a number of different armed groups operating in the area, each with different motives and none that agree with each other.
On the Sudanese side of the border, or more appropriately from the Sudanese side of the border, there are several contenders. Janjaweed is comprised of a number of armed Arab militias, or “armed horsemen,” based in Darfur. They take advantage of the lack of rule of law and attack, rape, and kill civilians in Darfur. To sustain themselves, they loot NGO supply warehouses and vehicles, and launch cross-border raids into Chad. According to a researcher with Human Rights Watch, Leslie Lefkow, many Janjaweed attacks are “purely economic”. It seems that they are trying to follow the rules of supply and demand; that is to say that someone has a supply and Janjaweed demands it. A side from the necessity driven attacks, there are subgroups within the militias with secondary motivations such as racism and others have joined the Janjaweed just for the criminal opportunities. This makes it difficult at times to determine the core motivations of any particular attack.
For those that watch Jerry Springer or were able to stay on top of the members of the music group Destiny’s Child, what comes next should be easy to follow. For everyone else the key point is that they’re all “bad guys” Leading up to the May 5, 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, there were two main rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). When the agreement was signed, it was a portion of the SLM/A that splintered off under the command of Minni Minnawi that signed it leaving the original element to do so. This agreement heightened tensions resulting in increased conflict. On June 30, 2006, the JEM, a portion of the SLM/A (that didn’t sign the agreement), and a third group, the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance came together under a new name: National Redemption Front. This of course would violate the peace agreement had they signed. All of the rebel groups are against the Sudanese government, however, lack of agreement between them prevents any concerted political strategy(Hanson 2007). This is probably good for the government because they are more likely to do harm to each other than to come together effectively to topple the current regime. It should also be noted that there are reports of civilian refugees in Chad being pressed into service. This non-volunteer element prevents a purely ideologically/politically motivated force which can limit the moral and tenacity of the group in action.
Speaking of refugee camps in Chad; from Chad’s corner, the trinity consists of the United Front for Democratic Change (FUDC), the Arab-dominated Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), and the Zaghawa dissident group the Rally of Democratic Forces (RaFD). These three groups are all working to topple the Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno. A logical question that may follow that statement is why there are three separate groups if they’re all working towards the same objective. Much like the warlords in the FATA along the Afghan/Pakistani border, their leaders, all being from different ethnic groups, refuse to join forces and subordinate themselves to any one leader. This is probably a good thing since they’ll be more likely to destroy each other than the government.
South of Chad is the Central African Republic which also shares a border with Sudan. The Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) is made up of former fighters who helped President Francois Bozize ascend to power in 2003. It’s now taken over three towns in the northeast of the country and wants Bozize to agree to power-sharing talks. Another rebel group, believed to be supporters of former president Ange Felix Patasse, the Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD), is out to overthrow Bozize. In addition, after conducting a fact finding mission in Chad and CAR, a congressional advocate for Refugees International, Sayre Nyce says that there are bandits in the CAR’s northwest who are kidnapping children and stealing cattle and they have “no organizing structure whatsoever.”
Until the second half of 2008, Sudan's economy boomed on the back of increases in oil production, high oil prices, and large inflows of foreign direct investment. GDP growth registered more than 10% per year in 2006 and 2007. Since 1997, Sudan has been working to implement macroeconomic reforms. They’ve even instituted a new currency, as of January 2007, they use the Sudanese pound one of which equals $0.50 USD. Sudan began exporting crude oil in the last quarter of 1999. Agricultural production remains important, because it employs 80% of the work force and accounts for about 33% of the GDP. This reliance of a majority of the population on subsistence agriculture combined with concurrent issues such as the Darfur conflict, the lack of basic infrastructure in large areas after twenty years of civil war in the south, guarantee that a significant portion of the population will remain at or below the poverty line for years to come in spite of increases in the average income. (Central Intelligence Agency 2009)
In the sandbox with Janjaweed are 2.5 million displaced people that have come to be dependent on the aid provided by humanitarian organizations. These NGO’s are faced with harassment from the Sudanese government, supply warehouse raids by local militias, and attacks on refugee camps. As a result, many of these organizations have started to pull out. In November 2006, the Norwegian Refugee Council withdrew its staff, leaving 300,000 people with outstretched hands that have since, remained empty. In December 2006, the United Nations started a mass evacuation, airlifting over one hundred aid workers from its own staff and other agencies from the north Darfur town of El-Fasher. Dawn Blaloc, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs discussed options saying, "If the tension subsides we will go back in," she went on to point out, "If it gets worse we can pull more people out.”
West of the border, in Chad, there are about 218,000 refugees who managed to escape Darfur only to find the same issues with a different perpetrator. The Sudanese are kept in twelve camps in eastern Chad. The region also contains 90,000 internally displaced Chadians, and some 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in three camps in southern Chad, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Attacks by Janjaweed militias on villages and NGO vehicles had since increased resulting in UN staff reductions in six camps in the north. Lack of road access has crippled the delivery of food and other supplies. There are now more even more people with even less resources accessible to them.
In the CAR there are around 197,000 internationally displaced people only about 8,000 of which are Sudanese due to UNHCR repatriation efforts(Central Intelligence Agency 2009). According to Sayre, the government but controls the capital, Bangai, while the rest of the country is a “failed state.” In spite of this, very few aid groups currently operate in northern CAR. There is no humanitarian aid from America, and the United Nations has not elected to establish a permanent presence due to the conflict. The UN’s World Food Program does distribute food by proxy through an Italian NGO. Ibrahima Fall, a UN senior special adviser (UNICEF), describes his findings as “rather grim.” He told of villagers fleeing at the sound of any approaching vehicles and stated that many have been living in the bush for the past eleven months. His personal take on the situation is that “some believe the situation does not justify an energetic response because not enough people have died.” He may be right.
On the subject of death and dying, population density increases the risks of disease and illness. CIA’s World Fact book declares the risk in Sudan, Chad and CAR to be “very high.” Primary medical concerns include bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis, and typhoid fever from food borne threats alone. There are also meningitis, rabies and avian flu among other illness that are harder to spell and easier to acquire.
All aspects of the PMESII systems construct are interrelated; an upset in any one aspect will throw the rest of the construct off balance. For example, the political structure on both sides of the Darfur border region are all facing insurgencies that are perpetrated by rebel militias. The people in these militias feel strongly enough about politics that they are willing to fight against their respective existing regimes. They use paramilitary force when they conduct raids and establish bases for their operations. Of course, the only way to deal with these people is to use military force to defend government interest or to offensively seek and destroy them. Aside from their necessity driven atrocities, hate crime is common and rest at the threshold of genocide, a term which the UN seems to have made a point not to use. A number of the members are recruited from refugee camps or otherwise pressed into service. Coming from varied backgrounds, they bring with them their personal prejudices and ethnocentric ideologies. Being the ones with the guns, they are now in a position to act uninhibited by any rule of law. The lack of government provided security leads to an austere social element within the PMESII construct where people constantly live in fear for their lives. From an economic standpoint, there is a large potential workforce that is really just taking up space as they make no contribution to their government’s economy. Additionally the resources required to sustain these people is a drain on the economy.
The militias are sustaining themselves with raids on UN and NGO warehouses. The violence has become so bad that many NGOs are pulling out their personnel and as a result, a proportionate amount of their supplies. With less to steal, the rebel leaders will need to find another source of food and supplies for their troops before they mutiny. Once the outside source of sustenance is depleted or otherwise no longer available, there will be no incentive to work together or to take direction from their leader except force of habit or fear. However, in an environment where people are desperate, they may find themselves more hungry than afraid, especially if they were not voluntarily recruited. The breakdown of the social conditions within the ranks of the rebels will lead to burst of anarchy until they expend their individual weapons and ammunition and kill enough of each other off to restore the balance. While all of this is going on, all those people in refugee camps will find somewhere else to go if they don’t die in place or in transit. Unfortunately what is most likely to happen is global pressure will lead the UN to go back in when things calm down rather than waiting longer until they are completely resolved. More than likely this will start the cycle all over again.
As far as joint operations go, it will require a significant amount of resources to stabilize the situation, neutralize the rebels and solidify the government’s control of their respective territories. Barring any SOFA restrictions, carrier fleets could station themselves in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Guinea both of which are about 1200 miles away and being allied with Egypt, we may be able to stage some troops there before sending them into Darfur. The Air Force would have to be limited to a reconnaissance role as high altitude bombing could result in excessive collateral damage. Marines would most likely be tasked with kicking in the door as shock troops. The army would then follow up with humanitarian aid and provincial reconstruction teams to build a solid infrastructure for the people that are left. The navy will most likely be used as an off shore deployment platform and in depth maintenance support element for the Marines.
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Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook. December 31, 2009. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ (accessed January 06, 2010).
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Hanson, Stephanie. Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic . January 02, 2007. http://www.cfr.org/publication/12309/ (accessed January 13, 2010).
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, D.C. : US Department of State, 2007.
Ploch, Lauren. Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 2008.
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Courtesy Clicks Welcome
Lance Crowe (author) on June 10, 2010:
Yea, it really does paint a bleak picture. And you're absolutely right, with no economic interest in the are, there's no demand for media coverage. However, this may potentially be the next war we end up fighting so there's no telling what the future may bring.
hotaru80 on June 10, 2010:
This is a very disheartening blog, but it makes you wonder why we haven't heard more about Darfur in the news. We hear of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The conflict between North Korea and South Korea. Obviously we are also updated on the "War on Terrorism". Is this because the United States does not have an economic stake in Darfur?