Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez criticized the Biden administration’s handling of Sudan at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday, claiming the administration left American citizens to fend for themselves and contributed to a failed push for democracy in the country.
Menendez delivered his opening remarks to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Assistant to the Administrator at the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance at USAID Sarah Charles. The two administration officials testified on the U.S. response to the outbreak of violence in Sudan in April, which saw two Americans killed and a number still trapped in the country after the U.S. was slow to conduct evacuations of civilians.
“Thousands of private American citizens were left to fend for themselves when the violence broke out, to say nothing of millions of Sudanese who now understandably feel abandoned by the international community,” Menendez said in his opening remarks. “U.S. policy fell short of the challenge. We refused to call a coup a coup after the Sudanese military takeover in 2021. Instead of imposing sanctions, we put the democratic aspirations of millions of Sudanese in the hands of generals despite evidence of their complicity in, and responsibility for, gross violations of human rights and significant public corruption.”
Menendez added that he can’t blame only the administration and the State Department for the failure, as the African Union, the United Nations and other regional actors also backed the policy to push for a democratic transition. However, he did say the State Department’s analysis was “flawed” because the administration was not prepared to evacuate both embassy staff and civilians from the country sooner.
“By convincing ourselves that these figures were going to help Sudan transition to a democracy, we neglected the need for accountability,” Menendez continued. “I realize that sometimes there are no good options, but hope is not a foreign policy strategy. We need to understand how our analysis was so flawed.” (RELATED: These Countries Evacuated Americans From Sudan While The Biden Admin Sat On The Sideline)
The current conflict in Sudan is being waged by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The two generals took power in the country after a coup in 2021 and were operating in a power-sharing agreement. Some believed the two sides were going to sign a deal to transition to a democratic, civilian government in April.
Instead, the two generals turned against each other, with fighting between the two groups resulting in hundreds reported dead in a matter of weeks. The United States quickly carried out an operation to evacuate dozens of embassy staff from the capital city of Khartoum, but faced criticism for waiting a week to evacuate civilians overland while other Western nations were conducting airlifts to rescue their citizens.