The Platform

A young man walks by a destroyed armored vehicle in Taiz, Yemen.

The war in Yemen broke out in 2014 when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels overthrew Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government. Because the Houthi rebels were supported by Iran, the Saudis intervened in 2015. The United States has provided intelligence and logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

While the United States has limited itself, in President Biden’s words, “to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people,” many critics of Riyad consider any logistical support to be a bridge too far.

Nearly 50 members of Congress introduced a resolution earlier this year to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war. The resolution calls to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition that includes providing spare parts, intelligence sharing, and other logistical support.

Aside from directly contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, there is another reason the United States should take a step back from any involvement in Yemen. By supporting Saudi Arabia, the United States, however indirectly, is supporting Sudan’s paramilitary militia, the Rapid Support Forces. Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces are primarily comprised of Janjaweed militias that fought in Darfur.

In 2013, the Rapid Support Forces was officially formed under the supervision of the National Intelligence and Security Service, but in 2017, the Sudanese parliament passed a law that brought the Rapid Support Forces under the army and under the direct authority of the president. The Rapid Support Forces were utilized by the Sudanese government to fight rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile regions in the country.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, previously the Deputy Chairman of the Transitional Military Council following Sudan’s 2019 coup, has led the militia since 2013. The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Dagalo visited Moscow and openly showed his support for Russia’s invasion.

It has been speculated that Dagalo discussed an agreement between his government and the Wagner Group. The Sudanese government has strenuously denied that the Wagner Group is operating in the country or that Sudan has any sort of agreement with the group. “They alleged that the Russian Wagner security company was present in Sudan and carrying out training, mining, and other illegal activities…which the government of Sudan denies completely,” the Sudanese government said in a statement after Western officials suggested the group was active in the country.

Upon his return home, Dagalo welcomed the idea of building a Russian naval base in eastern Sudan, one more gesture of his long-term interests with the Russians.

The Rapid Support Forces’ destabilizing role has even extended to Libya, where it gained a foothold in the Libyan conflict, sending its soldiers to back Khalifa Haftar and to protect oil installations in the region. According to news reports, 4,000 Sudanese forces were deployed to Libya in 2019. These troops were accused of attacking civilians and committing numerous crimes.

One of the primary financial sources that support Dagalo’s militia is the Yemen war. Dagalo’s forces have been fighting at the behest of the Saudis for years. They have been helping the Saudis secure their border, helping to capture many northeastern cities and towns in Yemen, and creating a buffer zone in the northern region. In December 2019, after the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir’s regime, Dagalo reaffirmed his commitment to the Saudi-led coalition.

Sudan’s involvement in the Yemen war does indeed reflect its bloody and exploitative background and comes with many human rights violations. A report by the New York Times exposed that the militia recruited children from Darfur and sent them to Yemen. Some of these children are as young as 14 years old, and even worse, the same report mentions that these children make up somewhere close to 40% of the militia fighters.

Previous attempts to withdraw U.S. support for Saudi Arabia were hamstrung by former President Donald Trump. In April 2019, he vetoed a bipartisan measure that would have stopped the U.S. from providing intelligence support and targeting assistance to the Saudi-led coalition. In a letter to the U.S. Senate, Trump said that the measure is an “unnecessary [and a] dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.”

It’s time for the U.S. to stop creating a fertile ground that Sudan’s militia is using to nurture and grow. Yemen’s ongoing humanitarian crisis is feeding Dagalo’s militia with money and is having a destabilizing effect. This is a long-awaited resolution, legislators should act and understand the serious harm of delaying passing it and should hold the government accountable and not let it sacrifice the stability and peace of the region in exchange for immediate economic interests with the Saudi regime.

Mohamed Suliman is a senior researcher at Northeastern University and also holds a degree in Engineering form the University of Khartoum.