Sudan, Intelligence and Security
Due to its role with connection to the international war on terrorism, Sudan has much greater importance in the realm of intelligence and security than do most nations of Africa's interior. Though it harbored al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996, Sudan in 2001 became an unlikely ally of the United States in its efforts against Islamist terrorists.
The two principal intelligence agencies of the Sudanese government are Al Amn al-Dakhili and Al Amn al-Khariji, the bureaus of internal and external security respectively. Security issues in Sudan have, for the most part, sprung from internal issues, particularly a civil war with roots going back to the 1950s. The vast nation, Africa's largest geographically, is sharply divided culturally into northern and southern regions. The north, which the government controls, is Arabic and Islamic, whereas the south is sub-Saharan African and non-Muslim (either Christian or traditionalist). The opposition Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) controlled much of southern Sudan by the end of the twentieth century.
The Sudanese government has been notorious for its human rights violations, including the continuation of the black African slave trade in the 1990s. Its imposition of strict Muslim law on the south in 1983 sparked a civil war that claimed more than 1.5 million lives over the next 15 years. Meanwhile, the government in Khartoum provided safe haven to bin Laden, who had been exiled from his native Saudi Arabia. U.S. and Saudi pressure forced the Sudanese to eject bin Laden in 1996.
After the al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the U.S. military struck back at targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, whose Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant was reportedly making chemical weapons. In 2001, the Financial Times revealed that two months before the bombings, Sudanese external security bureau chief Gutbi al-Mahdi approached the regional head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and offered to share intelligence on al-Qaeda. Suspicious of Khartoum, the administration of President William J. Clinton declined the offer.
The inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2001 signaled a change in U.S.-Sudanese relations. Even before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Sudanese intelligence had begun providing Washington with information on suspected terrorists who had resided in the country during the period 1991–96. Soon after the attacks, a senior State Department official told the Washington Post that Khartoum had made an "implicit" offer for the use of its military bases to strike against al-Qaeda. In March 2002, Sudanese authorities captured and imprisoned Anas Al-Liby, a senior al-Qaeda militant.
The Khartoum government made a peace deal with the SPLA in July 2002, and the two sides began work toward a ceasefire agreement.
█ FURTHER READING:
"Accused Al Qaeda Senior Militant Captured in Sudan." Los Angeles Times. (March 17, 2002): A20.
Alden, Edward, and Mark Turner. "Sudan's Surprise Deal with Rebels Catches Washington Off-Guard." Financial Times. (July 23, 2002): 10.
Huband, Mark. "U.S. Rejected Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda." Financial Times. (November 30, 2001): 1.
Sipress, Alan. "Sudan Provides Administration Intelligence on Bin Laden." Wall Street Journal (September 30, 2001): A14.
Sudan: Intelligence Agencies. Federation of American Scientists. < http://www.fas.org/irp/world/sudan/index.html > (March 1, 2003).