US forces sent to Djibouti to prep for possible Sudan evacuation
No decision made on a possible evacuation of Americans.
The United States is sending additional military forces and equipment to a base in Djibouti to pre-position in case they are needed for the possible evacuation of Americans from Sudan, two U.S. officials told ABC News.
Fierce fighting between the Sudanese Army and a paramilitary force has raged in Sudan's capital city of Khartoum since this past weekend, raising security concerns for Americans and citizens from other countries who have been trapped by the fighting.
More than 330 people have been killed in the fighting. There are an estimated 16,000 American citizens in Sudan, two U.S. officials told ABC News.
"The Department of Defense, through U.S. Africa Command, is monitoring the situation in Sudan and conducting prudent planning for various contingencies," said Lt. Col. Phil Ventura, a Defense Department spokesman.
"As part of this, we are deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it," said Ventura. As a matter of policy and security, we do not speculate on potential future operations.
Two U.S. officials told ABC News that the additional personnel and capabilities are being sent to Djibouti where 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at Camp Lemonnier, the large U.S. military base that is the hub for U.S. military operations in the Horn of Africa.
A top White House spokesman told reporters Thursday that President Joe Biden had authorized the movement of U.S. personnel in recent days.
"He authorized the military to move forward with prepositioning forces and to develop options in case, and I want to stress right now, in case there's a need for an evacuation," John Kirby, the National Security Council's coordinator for strategic communications told reporters at a White House briefing.
"We want to make sure that we've got the capability ready in case it's needed," said Kirby who stressed that no decision had been made yet to evacuate American diplomats or citizens. He urged both sides to stop the violence and allow for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed to address shortages of food and medicine.
Any evacuation in Sudan would likely mean access to the airport in Khartoum where fighting has already damaged some civilian aircraft.
"What I can tell you is that we have good accountability of all our government personnel," operating at the embassy said Kirby who acknowledged that not all of the U.S. diplomatic personnel are together.
"They're still trying to get them all co-located together for their own safety, they are still sheltering in place where they are," said Kirby.
While a U.S. diplomatic convoy was struck by gunfire earlier in the week, Kirby said "there's no indication that either side is deliberately going after or trying to hurt target. Americans."
ABC News' Shannon Crawford contributed to this report