drone footage of sudan explosion maheen one world
MSF Sudan manager cites a "difficult" and "challenging" situation in Khartoum
08:08 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The situation on the ground in Sudan on Wednesday remained too volatile to get diplomatic staff from the US Embassy in Khartoum out of the country, a top State Department official told congressional staffers.

According to multiple staffers in the room, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said that the State Department would do a drawdown if they could, but with ongoing fighting and the airport closed and partially damaged, it was not currently an option.

Phee, along with officials from the Bureaus of Consular Affairs, Diplomatic Security, and Management, briefed House and Senate staffers about the crisis in Sudan on Wednesday.

According to the staffers who spoke to CNN, the officials said that there are efforts underway with the Department of Defense to come up with options for getting embassy staff out of the country.

Another US official told CNN that State Department officials are in contact with Pentagon officials in Djibouti where the US has military assets to determine the best evacuation operation.

The State Department’s intention is to consolidate all of the staff, who have been sheltering in place amidst the deadly outbreak of fighting, to one location, but they have not been able to do so yet.

Phee indicated that the US is looking to the upcoming Eid holiday for a potential ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which could create a window to safely get people out of the country, according to the staffers.

Another US official said that the department is hoping for a ceasefire which would create the conditions on the ground that would allow an evacuation operation to take place.

The US Embassy in Khartoum on Tuesday reiterated its call for US citizens to shelter and place, and said that “due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, there are no plans for US government-coordinated evacuation.”

The State Department does not keep official counts of US citizens in foreign countries and Americans are not required to register when they go abroad. Officials told staffers Wednesday that there are an estimated 16,000 American citizens in Sudan, most of whom are dual nationals, and roughly 500 had contacted the US Embassy since the outbreak of fighting. Only around 50 of those people had asked for help, according to the staffers.

A State Department spokesperson said that the Department has “no higher priority than the safety and security of US government personnel, their dependents, and private US citizens abroad.”

“We do not preview or comment on the details of any staffing adjustments,” they said.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Phil Ventura said that the department “through US Africa Command, is monitoring the situation in Sudan and conducting prudent planning.”

“The US military maintains a constant state of readiness to support any number of missions around the world. As a matter of policy and security, we do not speculate on potential future operations or force movements,” Ventura said.

“Within Sudan, the Department of Defense’s mission is primarily focused on providing security at the US Embassy. While operational security prevents us from going into detail, the Department of Defense, through the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, provides ongoing security for diplomatic facilities worldwide,” he said.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed reporting.