As Darfur bleeds, Sudan helps US fight terror
PARIS: Once home to Osama Bin Laden, Sudan is an invaluable ally in the US-led war on terror but the cooperation may be allowing Khartoum to resist pressure to end the bloodshed in Darfur, experts say.
Sudan bowed to US demands to expel the Al Qaeda leader in 1996 and has since offered vital assistance to fight extremists, prompting the US State Department to label Khartoum “an important partner in the war on terror.”
The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Khartoum’s spies had gathered information for the United States about the insurgency in Iraq as Sudan is a crossroads for fighters making their way to the war-torn nation.
Sudan has also helped track the turmoil in Somalia, working to cultivate contacts with the Islamic Courts Union and other militias to try to locate Al Qaeda suspects hiding there, the report said.
While the United States has accused Khartoum of committing atrocities in Darfur and imposed economic sanctions, President George W. Bush faces criticism that he is soft-pedalling to avoid losing Sudanese cooperation on terrorism.
“The US is conflicted,” said Colin Thomas-Jensen, an analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank.
“On the one hand, there’s sincere concern in the White House, certainly a lot of pressure from the US Congress to deal with the atrocities in Darfur, but the overriding strategic objective of the US in the Horn of Africa is fighting terrorism and so these two issues are now clashing.”
Sudan this week agreed to allow the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers alongside a poorly-equipped African Union force serving in Darfur, where 200,000 people have been killed and more than two million people displaced in violence.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when an ethnic minority rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which then enlisted the Janjaweed militia group to help crush the rebellion. afp