A US Plan for Darfur
A US Plan for Darfur
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Special Episode: Sudan at War
Op-Ed / Africa 3 minutes

A US Plan for Darfur

Once again, the drumbeat is intensifying for stronger action to end the untold human suffering in Darfur, Sudan.

Senator Hillary Clinton recently sent a letter to President Bush, warning that 'our continued inaction will enable the killings to continue." A senior UN official told us that the international community is 'keeping people alive with our humanitarian assistance until they are massacred." After leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Darfur recently, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi stated, 'We all went to Darfur with a sense of deep concern, and we all left with a sense of outrage and urgency." The question now is whether all this noise will translate into concrete measures to protect the people of Darfur.

For nearly three years, President Bush has watched from the sidelines while senior officials in his administration have searched for solutions to the catastrophe in Darfur. So the president took a lot of people by surprise - especially members of his own foreign policy team - when he recently called for NATO to help protect civilians and stabilize the security situation there. But Bush's unscripted remarks on Darfur are consistent with his erratically implied policy of siding with oppressed people against their oppressors.

His administration has yet to form a united front on Darfur because of competing interests at the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Bush needs to pull together these disparate players and create a real policy to end atrocities, punish human rights violators, and create sustainable peace.

Now that Bush has finally admitted that his administration needs to do better, he should appoint an envoy to harmonize US policy toward Darfur and demonstrate his personal resolve to end the suffering. The president's previous envoy to Sudan, former Missouri senator Jack Danforth, was critical to ending the 22-year war between Khartoum and southern-based rebels. Darfur deserves the same level of engagement.

While Bush did call for NATO to oversee a UN peacekeeping mission, the African Union buckled to pressure from Khartoum to delay any sort of UN transition until at least October. Meanwhile the people of Darfur continue to wait, and the security situation along the Chad-Sudan border is deteriorating into a regional conflagration with grave humanitarian implications. Bush needs to ensure an accelerated AU handover to the UN and identify a capable nation to lead a UN-mandated stabilization force to immediately buttress the AU's civilian protection efforts and help secure the border.

Military planners at the Pentagon need to work closely with this lead nation to plan the mission and provide military assets that enhance the force's ability to respond quickly and aggressively to attacks against civilians. Like many policies, there are countervailing interests and concerns. The US military is heavily committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are still some resources available. A choice must be made to do our part to protect innocent people from tyrannical leaders, ethnic cleansing, and human rights abuses in this part of the world too.

The CIA also will have concerns, though for different reasons. Since Sept. 11, 2001, Sudanese military intelligence officials have cooperated to some degree with the United States on counterterrorism. No doubt, they had their reasons for doing so. In fact, these same officials - notably the head of military intelligence and friend of the CIA, Salah Abdullah Gosh - have orchestrated a terror campaign against civilians in Darfur. The Bush administration has called this organized slaughter genocide.

Gosh was Osama bin Laden's handler when the Al Qaeda leader lived in Sudan in the 1990s, and he is no doubt useful. But Gosh is also very likely a war criminal whose policies are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Darfurians.

To build even greater leverage for cooperation, the Bush administration should focus on accountability. The United States has the best signal, satellite, and human intelligence in the world. The United States should share what it knows about crimes committed in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, the body charged with punishing those who commit atrocity crimes in Darfur. In addition, the United States should press much harder for UN Security Council sanctions against government and rebel officials most responsible for the crisis. Properly executed, such a policy would strengthen cooperation from the government of Sudan.

President Bush has opened the door for stronger US action in Darfur. Now it's time for him to follow through by leading a focused diplomatic and military effort to end the crisis.


Wesley Clark
Board Member
Former Program Co-Director, Africa

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