MR PATEL:  Hey, everybody.  Good evening.  Thanks so much for joining tonight, and thanks to everyone for their patience and dialing in.  Just some quick ground rules at the top.  This briefing is on the record and will discuss the recent decision regarding operations at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, in Sudan.  The contents of this briefing are under embargo until the call’s conclusion.

With us today we have a number of speakers from the State Department.  We have Under Secretary for Management Ambassador John Bass.  We also have Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Molly Phee.  Additionally, from the Department of Defense, we have Chris Maier, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, who in his role supports embassy security for the Pentagon.  We also have with us Lieutenant General D.A. Sims, Director of Operations for Joint Staff J3.

We’ll have some remarks at the top and then we’ll try to get through as many questions as we can.

First I’d like to turn it over to Under Secretary Bass.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  Thank you, Vedant.  Good to be with all of you this evening.  And as Vedant noted, we’re doing this to talk about changes to our operational posture in Sudan.  As of today, April 22nd, as a result of the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, the United States has temporarily suspended operations – and I want to stress “temporarily” – suspended operations at our embassy in Khartoum.

The widespread fighting, as you know, has caused significant civilian deaths and injuries.  There’s been substantial damage to essential infrastructure, including, importantly, the civilian airport in the heart of the city.  And so as a result of the intensity of the conflict and the challenges that our diplomatic personnel were experiencing in conducting basic operations and the uncertainty about their – the availability of key supplies like fuel and food going forward, we reluctantly decided it was time to suspend operations; and with tremendous support from our professional military colleagues at DOD, we evacuated all of the U.S. personnel and dependents assigned to Embassy Khartoum there under the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

And I want to emphasize this operation was conducted by the Department of Defense, and only by the Department of Defense.  You may have seen some assertions in social media in recent hours that the Rapid Security Forces somehow coordinated with us and supported this operation.  That was not the case.  They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation.  I would submit that’s as much in their self-interest as anything else.

Sudan has long been a dangerous environment.  The United States in our Travel Advisories to American citizens and American travelers has had a notice in place for over a decade cautioning American citizens not to travel to Sudan.  It’s been dangerous for a variety of different reasons; and unfortunately, as we saw in the last week, the simmering tensions, which my colleague Assistant Secretary Phee can speak to, tipped over into a hot conflict, unfortunately in the heart of the city, concentrating early around the airport and taking that important piece of infrastructure out of the picture.  And so changing up both the ways in which we would try to protect our own people and think about getting them out of harm’s way, but also, importantly, impacting our ability to consider ways in which we might support the departure of our fellow citizens who would be seeking to do the same thing as this conflict intensified.

And so given that uncertain environment, the absence of any commercial air, the absence of any charter aircraft capabilities, and the absence of really feasible overland road routes to get out of the country, we concluded the only way we could do this safely for all of our diplomatic personnel was to rely on the capabilities of our military colleagues.

We don’t anticipate those security conditions are going to change in the near term, even though we’re going to continue to do everything we can to bring this fighting to a conclusion.  But as a result of that uncertain security picture, as a result of the unavailability of the civilian airport, we don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens in Sudan at this time or in the coming days.

However, although we don’t foresee coordinating that evacuation, we certainly continue to be in close touch with many American citizens resident in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan to give them our best assessment of the security environment and to encourage them to take appropriate precautions to the best of their ability in and around that environment.  And we’ve been doing that in close coordination with our colleagues who have a good sense of the environment and the best ways to try to deal with the conditions on the ground.

Even as we were working with our DOD colleagues to coordinate preparations for shuttering our embassy temporarily and getting our people out of harm’s way, at the direction of Secretary Blinken we also continued to develop ways to reach our American citizens and other organizations with whom we work closely to ensure we had the best range of tools available to try to help make sure we could get information to them quickly, to make sure that they could make the best-informed decisions about their personal safety in the moment, depending on where they might find themselves in Khartoum or in other parts of the country.

We’re going to continue to do that.  We’re going to continue to work closely with other countries, with the United Nations, with other international organizations, to collectively do as much as we can to enable our citizens, whether it’s individually or in combination with each other, to find their way to safety.  We understand a number of our citizens, a number of other countries’ citizens, have made their way overland from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.  That appears to be a quite challenging journey given the lack of predictably available fuel, water, food, other essentials.

And so we’re not recommending anyone undertake that route.  We’re not advising anyone to undertake that route necessarily.  But we understand if people are going to do that, and we’re going to continue to look for ways to try to help them do that from a distance to the best of our ability.

And before I turn it over to Ambassador Phee, just a quick observation here.  Every crisis, every conflict is different, and every one has some unique characteristics that create challenges for those of us who are trying to support our colleagues in the field.  This one has been no different.  Our colleagues in Khartoum for the last week, just like everyone else in the city, have been dealing with a pretty intense conflict with a great deal of uncertainty about their future.

They have done remarkable work to consolidate their own presence, to navigate very fluid security conditions, to broker safe passage for themselves and for others through rapidly changing lines of contact between the combatants, to tirelessly work to create first those very short-duration ceasefires before Iftars during Ramadan, and then to help secure this longer-term ceasefire over the Eid holiday.

And they have been enabled in all of that work by truly heroic efforts by our local Sudanese colleagues and employees of the embassy.  And this was truly an entire team effort, led very much by our ambassador on the ground, John Godfrey, and by our Secretary of State, Secretary Blinken, who for parts of the week seemed to be living in Khartoum’s time zone much more than wherever he was so that he could be available to help try to broker these agreements, consult with our colleagues on the ground, and make sure that we were doing our very best to take care of them in perilous conditions.

So let me stop there and turn it over to Ambassador Phee.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Thanks very much, John.  Good evening, everyone.  As John has said, suspending operations at one of our embassies is always a difficult decision, but it was a necessary precaution taken for the safety of our team.  I too want to offer my appreciation to our military colleagues who successfully evacuated them this evening.

The Secretary wants me to share with you the following:  The Sudanese people are not giving up, and neither will we.  The goal is to bring an end to this fighting and a start to civilian government.  At the direction of the Secretary, we are in close contact with Sudan’s military and civilian leaders to see if we can help them identify a path to extend and expand the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire to reach a sustainable cessation of hostilities that includes humanitarian arrangements.

Secretary Blinken spoke twice this past week with General Burhan and General Hemedti to urge them to cease the fighting that has endangered Sudanese civilians and our personnel.  During these calls he underscored their obligation to ensure the safety of our personnel and to take the steps that allowed tonight’s operation to take place successfully.

The Secretary has also been in contact with our regional and international partners to coordinate pressure on the SAF and the RSF to stop the tragic fighting as well as to collaborate on how best to support each other in helping our citizens.

On Thursday, at the invitation of the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki, the Secretary and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined other regional and international partners to press for an Eid al-Fitr ceasefire.  And late last night, Secretary Blinken consulted with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who offered Ethiopia’s full support for the overflight and refueling capabilities that were critical to the operation’s success.  The two also consulted on how to help the Sudanese.  Ambassador Godfrey, myself, my colleague Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, and others have been engaged all week in reinforcing diplomacy with the Sudanese military and civilian leaders as well as our African, Arab, and other partners.

I particularly want to highlight our collaboration with the member-states of the East African regional organization, which is known as IGAD, as well as the critical role played by our Saudi and Emirati partners.

While these efforts have resulted in some episodic reductions in violence, the indiscriminate military operations have continued and there remains serious distrust between the two forces.  Despite these challenges, the stakes are too high for Sudan and for the region to stop trying.

Finally, as we work through the difficult hours and days of this past week, the Secretary has been, as Under Secretary Bass noted, he’s been in really close communication with the team in Khartoum, speaking regularly with Ambassador Godfrey to consult on the best path forward.  And of course, Ambassador Bass and I and our colleagues in the State Department have also been in constant contact with the team on the ground to see how we can best support them.

Thanks.  Back to you, Vedant.

MR PATEL:  Thanks so much, Ambassador.  I am now going to turn it over to our colleagues from the Department of Defense, first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Chris Maier.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MAIER:  Thank you very much and good evening, everyone.  I’m Chris Maier.  As mentioned, I’m the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.  And I think was stated in the introductions, among my responsibilities is the embassy security portfolio for the Secretary of Defense.  And I want to just make the point at the top in my brief remarks that the speakers you’re hearing tonight in addition to many of the other folks that we’ve been working across seamlessly from the Department of Defense and State Department, other parts of our government, have been very instrumental in much of the success.  So I’ll give you a bit of an overview and then turn it over to my colleague from the Joint Staff, but I want to thank everybody for dialing in at this late hour.

I’d start with echoing the point that Secretary Austin made in lauding our extraordinary service members who executed and supported this remarkable operation with extreme precision and professionalism in close coordination with and in support of the U.S. Department of State, as has already been stated.  And I’d also like to take this opportunity to shine an especially appreciative light on the incredible duty carried out by the U.S. Marines who have been protecting and defending the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum through their service to the Marine Corps Embassy Support Group Region Six over these past turbulent days.  Our Marines who protect many of our embassies overseas do not often get the credit they deserve.  Their courage under duress represents America at its best, again, in this instance.

In the coming days, we will continue to work with the State Department to help American citizens who may want to leave Sudan, as has already been stated.  One of those ways is to potentially make the overland route out of Sudan potentially more viable.  So DOD is at present considering actions that may include: use of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats; secondly, the employment of naval assets outside the Port of Sudan to potentially help Americans who arrive at the port; and third, the establishment at the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart of a deconfliction cell focused particularly on the overland route.

And with those brief remarks, I’ll kick it back to Vedant, who will introduce Lieutenant General Sims.  Thanks.

LTGEN SIMS:  Hi, everyone.  Good evening.  This is Lieutenant General D.A. Sims from the Joint Staff, from the J-3, the Director for Operations.  Thanks for everybody for piping into this call tonight.

As you know, the Pentagon recently deployed forces to Djibouti to assist in the possible evacuation of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan.  Today, the U.S. military evacuated those personnel in support of the State Department, closing operations at the embassy in Khartoum.

This morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, a contingent of U.S. forces lifted off from Djibouti and landed in Ethiopia.  The aircraft, including three MH-47 Chinooks, refueled in Ethiopia before flying approximately three hours to Khartoum.

The evacuation was conducted in one movement via rotary wing.  The operation was fast and clean, with service members spending less than an hour on the ground in Khartoum.  As we speak, the evacuees are safe and secure.

I know everyone wants to get to questions, so I’ll keep it short and sweet and I’ll pass it back to Vedant.

MR PATEL:  Thanks so much.  Operator, could you please repeat instructions on how to ask questions?

OPERATOR:  Absolutely.  If you wish to ask a question on today’s call, please press 1 then 0 on your touchtone phone.  If you have already done so, do not do so again or you will be removed from the queue.  If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers.  Once again, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0 at this time.

MR PATEL:  Let’s first go to Jennifer Hansler with CNN.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) so much for doing this.  Can you hear me?

MR PATEL:  Yep, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Great, thank you.  I have a couple questions.

Regarding the presence of State Department personnel on the ground, can you give us an estimate of how many locally employed staff are remaining in Khartoum?  And are there any U.S. Government personnel who are remaining there?

And then we understand there may have been an issue with one of the helicopters that had it forced down before it crossed the border.  Is there anything you can tell us about that?

And then lastly, are there any details you can share about what made you confident that today would be safe enough to carry out this operation, that the SAF and the RSF had enough command and control of their people that they would not threaten this operation?  Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  So let me take the first piece of that.  We do not have any U.S Government personnel remaining in Khartoum at this time.  We continue to have a substantial number of our local staff supporting the embassy in a caretaker status, and we would anticipate they’ll continue to do that for the period of time that we’re out.  Hopefully, that will be a short period of time, but we’re confident they’ll continue to keep the facility in good shape.  And I can tell you as a career professional, none of us ever want to take the flag down and have to depart, and we are always eager to get back into the countries to which we’re assigned to do the nation’s business and try to address the really, in this case, compelling humanitarian needs of so many people across Sudan.

LTGEN SIMS:  And Jennifer, this is D.A. Sims.  I’ll answer the second one on the helicopter.  So we did not have a helicopter forced down.  We had a helicopter that was – that had an issue trying to connect to fuel on the way back, but they were able to remedy that and connected to the fuel no issue and continued on.  We did not have one down.

MR PATEL:  We’ll next go to Tara Copp with the Associated Press.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) all of the Marines and Marine Security Detachment were also removed from the country?  And then, can you just tell us what the threat situation looked like flying in?  Were you worried at all that the aircraft were going to take gunfire, and did they take any?

LTGEN SIMS:  This is Lieutenant General Sims again.  I’ll jump on that one, too.  So yes, all the Marines were removed from the embassy, came out with us.  And every military operation has some inherent risk to it.  Anytime you’re flying at 100 knots very close to the ground in pitch-black, there’s certainly some risk there.  It also helps to mitigate anybody’s ability to see the helicopters until generally they’re by them.  So we did not take any small-arms fire on the way in and were able to get in and out without issue.

MR PATEL:  Let’s next go to John Hudson with The Washington Post.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thanks so much for doing the call.  Wanted to know, in what ways are diplomatic capabilities now reduced as a result of the suspension of operations?  And how do you think you’ll avoid the somewhat inevitable sense that the U.S. is abandoning the Sudanese in their time of need?  And then just in this operation, did we evacuate any U.S. allies such as Europeans or other nongovernment personnel?  Thanks a lot.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Vedant, you want me to take the diplomacy or over to you, John?

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  So why don’t you take the first question and I’ll follow up.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Okay.  John Hudson – there’s a lot of Johns in our world this week.  Obviously, our diplomatic effort will be degraded while we are out of the embassy for what we hope will be a temporary period.  It’s degraded, but it has not abated in any way.

You heard us discuss that the Secretary and other leaders that have been in constant contact with the military leadership, primarily for two purposes: one was to make sure that tonight could be successful to the extent that we could secure their commitments to make sure that there would be no challenge to what we did; but secondly, to really impress upon them that the – nearly the entire world is united in shock at their conduct and united in their demand to cease this fighting, which is so threatening to the people and to the nation and frankly to the region.

So we remain actively engaged in talking to the Sudanese by phone.  Frankly, the Sudanese themselves are talking by phone because no one is really moving around much because of the fighting.  And we’re also going to remain engaged with our partners who are working to end the fighting.  Over.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  Yeah, John Bass.  To your first question, we did have a small number of diplomatic professionals from other countries at the embassy who arrived there as part of the consolidation effort after being collocated in mixed apartment buildings with members of our diplomatic staff, and it wasn’t – essentially they were working together to get themselves from where they were in harm’s way to the embassy, in some cases with a fair amount of creativity and ingenuity.  And so in the course of that, we welcomed a few diplomatic colleagues from other missions, and once at the embassy felt the prudent thing to do was to bring them out with us.

MR PATEL:  Let’s next go to Courtney Kube from NBC News.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) anything about the unit or sort of like what flavor of troops that they were?  How long was the mission from kickoff in Djibouti to landing back in Djibouti?  And then, can you give us any other sense of – I don’t mean to, like, nitpick here, but General Sims, you said that you didn’t take any small-arms fire on the way in.  Just being clear, you didn’t take any on the way out as well?  Thanks.

LTGEN SIMS:  Hey, Courtney, it’s Lieutenant General Sims.  No small-arms fire on the way in or the way out.  The total length of the operation – we traveled tonight, and I’m just pulling up my chart because I want to get it close – so it’s 800 miles or so to, and 800 miles or so back.  All told, almost a complete day.  We started early this morning, around 9 o’clock, and in bits and pieces we still have folks who are doing things, but they’re all back and safe.

And the – what was your – I’m sorry, Courtney, what was your other part of that question?

OPERATOR:  I did drop her after she asked her question.  She may need to requeue up and I can open her line back up.

LTGEN SIMS:  I’m sorry, Courtney.  I – yeah, I apologize.

MR PATEL:  We’ll come back to her when we see her in the queue.  Let’s next go to Vivian Salama with The Wall Street Journal.

OPERATOR:  I’m sorry, say that again.

MR PATEL:  Vivian Salama with The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Can you hear me?  Hello?

MR PATEL:  Yeah, Vivian, go ahead.


MR PATEL:  Yep, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Okay, thank you all for talking to us.  So I just want to be clear, and forgive me if it just came up; it’s late and we’re all a little bit fuzzy on things.  But just to be clear, no casualties, no injuries for embassy staff getting in or out?  And also, if you can update us on civilian – on other American casualties at the moment that you’re aware of, that would be helpful.

And then secondly, just in terms of the support that the State Department is now offering American citizens in country, can you just kind of give us a little bit a practical reality check on what is possible, what kind of support really is possible for people?  Especially if we’re talking about people going by land all the way to the Port of Sudan and things like that, it’s going to be really hard to kind of offer them any real logistical support.  And so if you can give us a sense of what the State Department is able to do, that would be helpful.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  Sure.  So with regard to casualties, at this point we’re only aware of the death of one American private citizen who has been killed in crossfire in the fighting.

With regard to practically what we’re able to do for Americans, it’s a challenging environment, no question about it.  I think what we’re trying to do in partnership with many of our allies and other countries is first make sure they’ve got the best available information about how security conditions might be changing, about what routes might be comparatively more dangerous, about experiences of folks who maybe have gone a certain way or been in a certain part of the city and experienced really challenging environments.

And then part of what we can do and are doing is in engaging American citizens through the tools that our consular team has here in Washington.  We’re able to help them potentially find other American citizens or people who – with whom they can maybe pool support.  If somebody’s got a need but they don’t have a vehicle, somebody else may have a vehicle and an extra seat.  Doing some of that matching up for people that they’re not otherwise able to do themselves is part of what we’re about.

We’re continuing to work very closely with a wide range of other countries to identify for them when we know our citizens are moving to try to be on the lookout for them and to support them if they find them in proximity to overland convoys they might be organizing.  And then we’re working with a number of governments on once people have departed Khartoum and they’re approaching or in Port Sudan, working closely to try to help enable their onward journey from there to wherever they may be trying to get to outside of Sudan.

MR PATEL:  Thank you.  And I see Courtney back in the queue, so why don’t we open up here line so she can finish asking her first question.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Just quickly, how many total Americans and others were evacuated as part of this mission?  How many U.S. troops were part of it, and can you say who the troops were, like what unit they were from?  Thanks.

Did you not hear me?

LTGEN SIMS:  Hey, Courtney, I’m sorry.  It’s Lieutenant General Sims.  I’ll get – let me get the back half of that.

So there was just over a hundred troops total involved in the mission, and all Special Operations forces.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  And the complement that was evacuated by our military colleagues was under a hundred people.

MR PATEL:  Great.  Let’s next go to Daphne Psaledakis with Reuters.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you all for doing this.  I just wanted to follow up on questions from colleagues earlier and just clarify if you had any communication with the RSF before this operation letting them know that this was going to take place.  Thanks so much.

LTGEN SIMS:  Hey, Daphne, this is Lieutenant General Sims.  So the AFRICOM – I’m sorry, the U.S. Army – or the U.S. Africa Command commander, General Langley, did have contact with both Hemedti and Burhan prior to this.  He’s had a couple of conversations with them.  The chairman has talked to Burhan a number of times, and messages were communicated throughout this to ensure safe passage of our forces.  Over.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE:  Hey, General Sims, can I add to that that Secretary Blinken also had conversations – again, as I’ve said before – first to remind both parties of their obligations under international law, particularly international humanitarian law, not to kill their own civilians and their responsibility to protect our civilians and to talk to them that because of the intense fighting, the reckless and intense fighting, that we would expect their support if we needed to make a move like we did tonight.  Over.

MR PATEL:  Great.  And let’s next go to the line of Michele Kelemen with NPR.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  Can you hear me?

MR PATEL:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hopefully you can hear me, yes.  So you answered my question about approximately how many were taken out.  I wonder where are they going to be based now.  Are they going to stay kind of in the region hoping to get back in, or come back to Washington?

And then also, the President mentioned not just Djibouti and Ethiopia.  He also mentioned Saudi Arabia.  I wonder if you can just tell us a little bit about the role of those three countries in this.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  Molly, do you want to speak to that?

ASSISTANT SECRTARY PHEE:  Sure.  Michele, in the – immediately following this operation, we’re going to bring people home, but we’re actively exploring how we can deploy to do what the Secretary has asked us to do to contribute our influence and our relationships with partners and allies, particularly in Africa and in the Arab world, those that have influence in Sudan, as well as our partners broadly speaking in the international community, to see if we can get to the goals I outlined at the top – an end to the fighting and a start to a civilian government.

So we’re working through that.  We are a little bit focused this weekend getting them out, but we will do our best to find a way to act on the commitment the Secretary wants us to pursue.

MR PATEL:  And then we’ll take one final question from Rosiland Jordan of Al Jazeera.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  In a slightly bigger-picture question, was evacuating U.S. diplomats and temporarily closing the embassy always at the top of the list when the fighting broke out between Hemedti’s forces and Burhan’s forces, or was this a situation that really came together on the fly because of the rapidity and the intensity of the fighting on the ground?  A little bit of context on how the decision to temporarily close operations came to be.  Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY BASS:  Sure, I’m happy to take that.  Closing out an embassy is never our first choice, it’s never our second choice.  It’s the last thing we ever want to do.  And so in this case, as was the case in many other countries in the past, particularly those like this, whether it was Yemen or Libya, we continually go through a progression of assessing whether or not we can maintain operations, when we can operate safely and keep the flag up and keep our people engaged in that last three feet, which is such an important part of diplomacy and conflict mediation.

In this particular case, when things first kicked off a week ago, the bulk of the effort, which Molly can speak to because she’s in the middle of all of it, was really in seeing if there was a way to quickly staunch it and bind it in time so that we could all get back to the business of trying to find a more permanent solution to the differences between these parties and others in Sudan.

When that proved not to be the case in the first couple of days, even as those efforts continued, we started to evaluate how we could best support our colleagues, many of whom were pinned down in apartments scattered around the city.  And so we undertook a process of consolidating them and trying to get them into a smaller number of places, into places that afforded comparatively more safety and protection.

And then as we were doing that, we started assessing access to fuel, availability of food, reliability of power, all of those things that you rely on to keep a pretty sizeable office building and operational complex up and running.  And it was only as we looked through that and saw through the conflict continuing that we couldn’t reliably predict and depend on availability of fuel in the future, availability of food past a certain point in time, and other essentials for operations.

It was only at that point that we reluctantly concluded that the only really feasible option for us in this case was to temporarily suspend operations, move those operations – our diplomacy – offshore, and continue the work from there, but always with the intention of finding a path back to having our flag up and our presence in Khartoum as quickly as we could.

LTGEN SIMS:  Hey Rosiland, can I add – I don’t mean – I know everybody is tired and probably ready to go down.  I’m one of them.  Can I add a comment – this is Lieutenant General Sims – on the planning piece?  And the first thing I would tell you is we have plans to ensure the safety of all of our embassies.  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Africa and rehearsing and preparing, just given the tyranny of distance in Africa and the places we’d have to go.  And so this planning was anything but haphazard and over the course of the last week has only progressed as capability was adjusted by the Secretary and the President and as the combatant commander planned and made plans for what occurred today.

I would tell you I’ve watched this now for a week and been a part of this on the phone with a number of the folks on the phone now and a bunch of folks otherwise, and I have been blown away watching and listening, and what has been – what has occurred in Khartoum with our diplomats, with the security personnel there, in the best interests of them and their safety, and back here and forward by those in uniform that would go to get them.

And I’ll tell you I’ve seen a couple of these, a bunch of these over 30-plus years, and every case and tonight it just reminded me how proud I am to be a member of the military but really how grateful I am to be an American.  This is the only country that can do what occurred tonight, and it’s the only country that our diplomats are out there on the edge of freedom’s frontier, and I’m certainly proud to be a part of that.  So I hate to drag it on; I just wanted to make sure I pointed that out.

U.S. Department of State

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