Rescue of UK civilians from Sudan might be extra harmful than evacuation of Kabul, officers warn

The rescue of hundreds of British civilians from the violence in Sudan might be extra harmful and troublesome than the chaotic airlift that unfolded in Kabul after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital.

The stark warning from senior British officers got here as an RAF C-17 plane landed in Port Sudan for troops to hold out reconnaissance for the extraction of round 4,000 individuals who have been stranded within the nation since deadly strife erupted between the forces of two rival navy strongmen.

While the tumultuous Afghan evacuation led to determined refugees being trampled to loss of life exterior the airport – and a suicide bombing claiming 183 lives – preventing between authorities forces and the Taliban was coming to an finish when the flights had been underway.

The senior navy officers and safety officers cautioned concerning the dangers of the Sudan mission as information emerged {that a} French particular forces soldier was “gravely ill” after being shot whereas escorting his nation’s diplomats out of Sudan. It additionally emerged that two areas the place Turkish residents had been instructed to assemble for evacuation had come underneath hearth.

An aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International airport


The UK officers identified that American and British forces had been current throughout the operation in Kabul, and there was an agreed timeframe with the Taliban for the evacuation to happen.

The Sudan mission, nevertheless, should be undertaken whereas clashes proceed between the forces of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the top of the military, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF). Some of the fiercest exchanges have been going down in districts of Khartoum the place British and different overseas nationals at the moment are trapped.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, mentioned that choices to evacuate from Sudan by air, land and sea had been being examined, and the Ministry of Defence would current the choices out there for the prime minister to return to a ultimate choice.

Each route has difficulties. The Wadi Seidna airfield close to Khartoum, which had been utilized by the UK and different states to fly folks out, is relatively small, able to dealing with simply A400M-sized transport plane at a time. This was in marked distinction to Kabul the place the mixed capacities of the navy and civilian airports allowed dozens of flights to function daily.

Port Sudan, the place the UK reconnaissance workforce arrived, has skilled much less violence than the Sudanese capital. Naval passages could be organized from there and two Royal Navy ships are within the area. The frigate HMS Lancaster is in close by waters whereas the availability ship RFA Cardigan Bay is present process upkeep in Bahrain.

However, getting the evacuees to Port Sudan from Khartoum would imply a journey of 500 miles (simply over 800km) alongside roads the place preventing has taken place in latest days. Although some civilians have managed to make their option to the coast, the state of affairs stays extremely unstable.

A battle-damaged road in Khartoum


A senior UK defence supply mentioned: “This is a very, very different challenge to Afghanistan. Kabul was the last place of safety in Afghanistan. But we had troops on the ground, really good intelligence, really good relationships with the Afghan national security forces – and a defined period of time given to us by the Taliban – to get people out as quickly as we could. So although it was a deteriorating situation we started from a position where there wasn’t fighting going on in Kabul. We knew everything we needed to know and it was just a case of getting planes in and out.”

Expanding on the variations between Afghanistan and Sudan, the official, with deep data of each missions, continued: “Khartoum is more dynamic, more dangerous. What happened in Kabul – thank heavens because it would have made things even worse – is that aside from that one tragic suicide bombing, there was not fighting going on between the Taliban and the ANA [Afghan National Army] while we were trying to do the evacuation.

“In Khartoum, today, there is fighting going on between the SAF and the RSF in the neighbourhoods where Western nationals are most heavily concentrated, and that makes it very difficult. That’s the difference in the relative dangers and dynamism of the situation in Khartoum versus Kabul.”

The UK, together with the US, is asking its nationals to remain at house. The senior defence supply acknowledged that this was an especially troublesome selection. “If you tell people to stay at home they may be less likely to get shot,” the official mentioned. “But the availability of food and water in the city is increasingly limited. If you tell people to leave home it’s towards safety. Then they get closer to food and water but they might be at increased risk. And that makes it very difficult to work out how we best support the people that are there.”

Earlier within the day, the Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alicia Kearns, mentioned the Foreign Office didn’t seem to have learnt classes from the evacuation from Afghanistan. She instructed BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have a moral obligation to tell British nationals as soon as possible that is the judgement that has been made, because they then need to make their own decisions.”

Responding to studies that British nationals who had registered with the Foreign Office had obtained simply two computer-generated messages previously week she added: “That would suggest no lessons have been learnt from Afghanistan and I have urged the government to make sure they are communicating regularly with British nationals. The reality is that, unlike other countries, we have thousands [of nationals in Sudan] so perhaps sometimes phoning around is terribly difficult.”

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