Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations - The Continuing Crisis in Darfur
SEN. BIDEN: Order.
Let me begin by welcoming our witnesses and thank them for taking the time to come today and testify. I genuinely appreciate it.
A little over a year ago, this committee held a hearing entitled, "Darfur: A 'Plan B' to Stop Genocide." At that time, there were over 2 million people living in camps in Darfur, millions more at risk, and an estimated 7,700 African Union peacekeepers. The United Nations assumed joint control of the peacekeeping mission on December 31st, 2007, but, from my perspective at least, the situation seems to have improved very little.
Since January 1, 90,000 more people have been driven from their homes, and since that date, peacekeeping forces have seen a net increase of only 293 troops -- if my numbers are correct. Additional police personnel are now present, and peacekeepers on the ground are better equipped, but it defies my comprehension that the international community has not managed to do better than we have. Violence and banditry are still the order of the day. Last week the World Food Program announced that it's going to have to cut its rations for people in Darfur in half because so many of its trucks are being hijacked and it cannot maintain supply lines.
Just yesterday, the head of the UN-AU mission into Darfur reported that it's unlikely that the peacekeeping force will be fully operational this year. Another top U.N. official estimated that 300,000 people have died in Darfur since the beginning of the conflict. That's a very grim juxtaposition of the world's inability -- or unwillingness -- to act.
At the time of our hearing last April, the biggest obstacle to peace seemed to be the refusal of the Sudanese government to allow U.N. peacekeepers in the country. Well, last June Sudan agreed to let them in -- at least it agreed on paper. The question is, why have we seen so little progress over the course of the year? Earlier this month, the U.N. secretary-general published a report assessing the situation in Darfur in which he expressed disappointment at, quote, "the lack of progress on all fronts," and his report spells out the dismal situation in stark terms. He said, quote, "The parties appear determined to pursue military solution, the political process is stalled, the deployment is progressing very slowly, and the humanitarian situation is not improving," end of quote.
This is the best the international community can do in response to genocide. It really is discouraging. And from my perspective, I don't think it's acceptable.
The purpose of this hearing is to get answers to some very basic questions, and I want to make it clear I do not -- nor does anyone on this panel -- hold the witnesses responsible for the lack of progress. But we need to get some answers. We've got to try to figure out if there's any way through this.
The basic questions I wanted to ask about are what is delaying the deployment of the full complement of 26,000 peacekeepers and police -- Sudanese obstruction, the failure of other countries to contribute needed equipment such as helicopters, the U.N. bureaucracy that has been cited as a source of delay? Is it some or all of the above? Is it the fact that last time we had a hearing -- the rebel groups have now morphed into 25 different identifiable bands. I remember several years ago meeting with what was then, I think, five or six rebel groups. The commanders came out of the field in Darfur and met with me in Chad. They were somewhat dysfunctional then, but it's now gone way beyond that.
The second question I want to ask about is what is U.N. going to do to help to overcome the obstacles to deployment? What is the United States doing to lead the way through or around any of the impediments I've cited? Is it helicopters that are needed? Then we should find a way to provide them -- convince others to step up. Or actually, as I said to the president -- I think my colleague was with me -- if that's the only problem, appropriate the money and build eight new helicopters here.
Is the Sudanese obstruction the reason? Five years into the conflict, this is simply not something the international community should be continuing to tolerate. Are bureaucrats getting in the way? Well, if that's true -- I don't know that it is, that's reported -- if that's true, it's time to steamroll the bureaucrats. What is the current security and humanitarian situation in Darfur on the ground today? What are the prospects for a peace process between the government and the rebel groups, let alone -- maybe even among the rebel groups? Why are we allowing Sudan to continue to violate the U.N. ban on offensive military flights over Darfur?
And finally, I would pose the same question I did a year ago. On September the 9th, 2004 in testimony before this committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-secretary of State, said clearly that the killing in Darfur was genocide. Shortly thereafter, so did President Bush. So I now ask again, what are we doing about it? Recent news accounts in The New York Times and elsewhere have described bilateral talks between the United States and the government of Sudan held in Rome. These talks were headed up on the U.S. side by Ambassador Williamson -- who we'll be hearing from later this morning -- and a high-ranking Sudanese official on their side. The newspaper article indicated that these talks might lead to the U.S. easing sanctions in Sudan, removing Sudan's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, or taking other steps to normalize relations.
I know that the administration has asked to discuss this issue in a classified forum -- which I welcome, and I'm sure my colleagues will. We can work out a time to make us all available. And I've also been around long enough to know that I don't believe everything I read in the newspaper. And so -- but, absent the classified briefing, I'd like to state very clearly in terms strong enough to be heard all the way to Khartoum that in my opinion, none of these steps should be considered until the Sudanese government ceases all attacks on civilians, allows the U.N. peacekeeping mission full access to Darfur with the freedom to carry out its mandate, disarms the Janjawid --whom it unleashed on innocent villagers -- and upholds its commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the south and Darfur Peace Agreement.
For five years, the people of Darfur have suffered death, deprivation and destruction. Government forces, the Janjawid militia and rebel groups have all preyed upon civilians and aid workers trying to help them. When the United Nations finally assumed joint control of the peacekeeping missions, hopes rose that it would make a real difference to the people in Darfur. Those hopes have not yet been fulfilled.
I truly want to know -- as I expect my colleagues do -- why not? And what will it take to change the circumstance on the ground?
I don't want to be here a year from now asking the same questions to a new administration that I posed last April and just posed again. Genocide is happening on our watch. The question is what is there, if anything, we can do about it? Because what we're doing now doesn't seem to be working.
I will yield to my colleague Chairman Lugar.
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SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.
We're going to -- with your permission, after we hear from our first witness -- go to seven-minute rounds.
And I want to make it clear how much we appreciate, Dr. Lute, you being here. I understand, under the rules, you are briefing us -- representing the officer in charge of the Department of Field Support, United Nations in New York. You are not here to testify. That is not your role, nor is it the practice of the U.N. But we truly appreciate you taking the time to be here to brief us. And, as I said, through the office of our special envoy, we will also seek a closed briefing as well. But we thank you and welcome you.
And, again, please do not read into anything you heard from me or the chairman that we're looking at you to suggest that gee, why haven't you solved this? This is a very, very difficult and maybe intractable problem. But it is frustrating, and if it's frustrating to me and to the members here it must be exceedingly frustrating to you.
So, again, thank you for being here, and the floor is yours, Doctor.
The little button on the mike there.
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SEN. BIDEN: Well, thank you very much, Doctor. With your permission, we'd like to ask a few questions, if that's okay.
Let me begin where you ended. I think an awful lot of Americans -- and I suspect Europeans and others as well -- are sometimes confused by the distinction between peacekeeping and peacemaking. And, for example, we have a line -- I'm informed by Senator Chairman Dodd -- a line that is all the way down the hallway here of people wanting to come in to hear your testimony, and this is an issue that has caught the heart, imagination and attention of people all around the world because it seems so intractable, and so many innocent people. I've only visited it once. I visited the camps on the border and the northernmost camps. It's amazing what the U.N. is doing, keeping those folks alive in what is a God-forsaken part of the world.
But let me begin talking a little about peacekeeping versus peacemaking. I would posit that there is no peace to keep right now. There is an agreement of sorts. It seems to me that Khartoum -- you mentioned engineering necessities, capacity, self-sustaining capability. As I understand it, Sudan notwithstanding their assertions, Khartoum is holding up supplies at the Port of Sudan, restricting communications equipment that can come in, which is essential to a self-sustaining capacity on the ground for any force; I may be mistaken, but I'm told denying engineering capacity, that is the very things that come in to construct the capacity for a troop to be self-sustaining, and a number of other obstacles.
And I would like to ask you to contrast that to what I would suggest in the parlance is a slightly different kind of force. There's a force that just at EUFOR Chad. The European Union is deploying, quote, a "peacekeeping" force inside the Chad border with Darfur, approximately 3,700 people. Most of these troops are French; France has a long history, a former colony; they have an air base there that could be used. And Russia is contributing helicopters.
Now, one of the things that I'm a little bit confused about is that it seems as though the distinction between -- in broad terms -- the European Union's action to deploy 3,700 troops that are self- sustaining, know how to shoot straight, are organized, are capable, and that's not a criticism of the AU. I met with the AU commanders on the ground; they desperately need everything from infrastructure to training to equipment and I know the Rwandans are probably ahead of the game because of the training they've gotten and probably the most capable of the AU forces.
But how would things change for you if the continued resistance from the various sectors for deployment of this force, the peacekeeping force that you are charged with, if in fact there is a deployment of 2,500 to 4,000 NATO troops on the ground establishing, without having to any longer put up with the interminable delays of the Sudanese government, just within west Darfur and just initially, which they could do -- not establish peace but establish some order, set the table, set the groundwork for all that infrastructure you're talking about?
I know that heretical; I know no one but me supports that. I shouldn't say no one, but not many people. And I'm not sure at this point that its force would be available. But how would that change your circumstance? Would it just make it impossible or would it in fact send a message to Khartoum that there are certain actions that where when countries engage in genocide they forfeit their sovereignty, that the international community has a right to come in to protect people?
And I will make it clear -- it's a long question; it's the only question I'll ask -- I want to make it clear what Senator Lugar pointed out in the statement: I don't think that portends for a political settlement. That will not create a political settlement. That will not alter a lot of the other pieces on the ground. But one thing it would do, it would sure in (sic) hell shut down the Janjawid real quickly, and it would blow away those rebel groups that are engaged real quickly in the area where they were.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing, if it could happen?
MS. LUTE: You ask -- you know, sort of a -- not only -- I mean, at every level this is an extremely relevant question for us in the United Nations. We have our own piece of the Chad operation to deploy. That operation consists really of three parts: of the EUFOR, which you described; of the United Nations' mission, which will be about 1,200; and that mission is designed to support the third component which is 800 Chadian police, whose job it will be to bring security to the camps and to the refugee sites and to the IDP sites and to the surrounding cities. That operation is being stood up simultaneous to our effort to stand up Darfur --
SEN. BIDEN: Right.
MS. LUTE: So from a U.N.'s perspective, is there --
SEN. BIDEN: My guess is it will be stood up 20 times faster than your operation.
MS. LUTE: Certainly the European component of this tripartite mission will be -- they project to stand up, to be at initial operating capability by May, and that is -- they define that with the bulk of their force. As you know, the U.N. -- we have no standing military --
SEN. BIDEN: No, I understand, yes.
MS. LUTE: We have no standing training. We have very little doctrine we've just begun to write. We have no standing civilian cadre of personnel. Every single mission is, to a certain extent, stood up for the first time as if for the first time. We are able to rely on troop-contributing countries that themselves feel stretched around the world. There is not only the operation in Chad but other operations as well, which is pressing down on troop-contributing countries and police-contributing countries.
But your point about the presence of a robust force on both sides of the border, frankly, Mr. Chairman, is what's necessary and we are aiming to do our part.
SEN. BIDEN: I thank you very much. I yield to Chairman Lugar.
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SEN. BIDEN: Just a second. Back in '88, I proposed that there be a small standing force under U.N. charter. We're allowed to have that happen if the U.N. votes for it. It received a very cold reception here in the United States and not a very warm reception anywhere else. And all we were calling for was in the post -- in 1990, the post-Cold War, that there be provisions to have this peacekeeping capacity.
Senator Lugar is trying to -- with the help of me and others -- trying to provide such a capacity here at home, civilian as well. But as they say, it's above both our pay grades, but I think it's a worthwhile thing to pursue again.
The senator from Florida, Senator Nelson.
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SEN. BIDEN: Doctor, let me -- I just have one comment and maybe one question, and then we'll let you go. First of all, you live in a busy household. You're taking care of Darfur, and your husband's taking care of Iraq and Afghanistan. No easy problems in your house. It must be great kitchen table discussions.
MS. LUTE: We don't see each other that much, sir.
SEN. BIDEN: Not a lot of pillow talk, huh? (Laughter.) But let me say to you what I said at the outset. I just know more about you maybe than some of my colleagues do, because some of my staff worked with you. You are held in exceedingly high regard. I want to -- and I mean that sincerely. I think you're really smart, and you're really in a difficult spot.
I'd like not for you to comment, unless you choose to, but I think that we all know why things have dragged on as long as it has. I don't know of any situation that spontaneously solved itself like the situation in Somalia in the north-south issue or as it relates to Darfur.
I went to see one of your former military colleagues and a colleague of your husband of similar rank four years ago, and he gathered together a group of his compatriots who had stars and bars on their shoulders from NATO. And I spent some time sitting in the headquarters in Europe, and I said, what would it take to stabilize the situation in Darfur? This was four years ago now. And they whipped out a plan.
And the bottom line was, to oversimplify it, 2,500 to 3,500 NATO forces, trainers to go in, cargo planes, airlift capacity, helicopters, but to go in and shut down the Janjawid. I visited an air base in Chad, which you are familiar with, a French -- former French base, where you could impose a no-fly zone. I know that would impact on what already is impacted on anyway, food delivery and aid. But the answers that I got from the military was we can do this, but there is not any political will to do this in Europe or in the United States, for that matter. And it was suggested by one general in particular that if the president of the United States made this an issue, took it to the forefront at the (NAC ?) that this could get done. This could get done.
But things have deteriorated significantly since then. Our situation, in my view, in Iraq has complicated -- and you had a great expression, I can't remember exactly, but if you're looking for an excuse, you can find one, or whatever the phrase you used before. Now there's a strong argument being made by -- I called for the unilateral use of American forces absent NATO's willingness to move. It didn't get any reception here in the Congress. It didn't get any reception in Iowa -- (laughs) -- or anywhere else. And I said if I were in that spot, yes.
SEN. DODD: With present company excluded.
SEN. BIDEN: Present company excluded. (Laughs.) That's why we both got out so quickly.
SEN. DODD: NOW they say experience matters. (Laughter.)
SEN. BIDEN: We spent more time endorsing one another in Iowa. It probably was the kiss of death when I said if I wasn't in, I'd be for him, and he said the same. That was it, so we both came home to -- but all kidding aside, the arguments now, and I may ask you to comment on one aspect of what I'm going to say, only one, because you're not in a position in your present role to comment on all of them.
There's an argument that because of whether we made mistakes or everything we did was right in Iraq, we now have a, quote, "Muslim problem" worldwide. So for the United States to go in to take on a Muslim government in Khartoum that is in my view responsible for the killing, we would lose further standing throughout the Muslim world. So that's one of the -- why we the United States can't do anything unilaterally.
China -- big problem. China could be a major part of the solution, but China has an oil resource stream there. They don't want to be any part of real ability to crack down on Khartoum.
The no-fly zone -- the very community that I care most about, and we all do, the humanitarian community, was very critical of my suggesting imposing a no-fly zone, understandably. I understand it. But what I predicted happened anyway. They're not able to deliver the food anyway now because what would happen.
And then there's this overarching concern here in the United States, which is totally understandable. It starts on my pillow with my wife, who is also a doctor, who says: "Joe, I don't want us to be involved in any more. I don't want to send my son, he's already going to Iraq. I don't want him going other places." I mean, all this -- we can't solve this. We can't solve this.
So the one thing I want you to comment on -- I mean, there are all the pushbacks I've been getting for four years, and I'm not saying they're legitimate. I'm, you know, I think this is a very tough call. Were I making the call, I would literally, not figuratively, unilaterally deploy U.S. forces. I would do it. NATO would follow, because they'd have no choice, in my humble opinion, and I believe when a nation engages in genocide, it forfeits its right to claim sovereignty. And so I would not even consult with Khartoum. That would leave a lot of problems, a lot of problems, but I think we have to face up to the fact that if we really want action, there's only one way it's going to happen, is if the United States mobilizes the rest of the world and says we're going to act.
Short of that, no one else is. No one else is in the near term. That's why I raise the issue of the Euro-U.N. force in Chad, because you could argue the same problems exist there. We're siding with the Chadian government against the rebels in Chad. We're in a position where we're making a judgment. We're engaged in the sovereignty issue in Chad. We're dealing with -- you know, all of the same problems exist, except it's more doable in Chad, so we're prepared to do it, in my view.
So here's the point I'm on, and I apologize for going on. Absent the United States leading the way and deciding to go in, providing the cargo capability, providing the helicopters. I mean, the idea of the United States of America with a half-a-trillion-dollar, I mean -- (aside) -- how big is our military budget now? It's well over -- it's about a half a trillion, isn't it?
A half a trillion dollars? As I said to the president, we can't find eight helicopters? Literally, if our president -- if Roosevelt were president, guess what. He'd manufacture them. Literally, not figuratively. We'd pass legislation, special authorization of supplemental authorizing the construction of eight new helicopters. We'd go to Boeing, whoever, and say build them. We'd go to Connecticut and do it. (Laughter.) That might end up being the biggest problem with building them. But at any rate -- the senator from Pennsylvania and I might want it at Boeing down south Philly.
At any rate, all kidding aside, you know, short of that, though, for us to go at the U.N. for not doing something, I find it, I mean, what can you all do?
So here's my question after that long, long prelude: In the experience of you and your colleagues in the peacekeeping side of the mission, is there, for lack of better phrase, an allergy to U.S. forces being involved in any capacity in a country led by a Muslim government? Is it -- do you hear from your colleagues at the United Nations talk that I hear coming from those who don't want us to. And there's good reasons not to want to get engaged in a military operation unilaterally in the United States after asking people to help but not being willing to do it. Is there an issue about -- would it be different if the Khartoum were not a Muslim government? How much does that play when you're putting together forces, when you're pushing for engineers, when we're trying to get communications equipment in -- how much of it is cast in the light of, you know, the United States imposing its view on another Muslim country? Do you hear that chatter? Is that part of what goes on up in New York, or is it, if you're able to -- and you can demur, obviously, if you wish, because again, you're in a difficult position. But I'd like to have a sense of that.
MS. LUTE: What I say in response, Senator, is that there had been a traditional avoidance of using any of the permanent five members of the Security Council in a very large way in peacekeeping, with a few important exceptions. That traditional --
SEN. BIDEN: Well, let me go back. We both would agree, we're not really peacekeeping here. We've got to establish peace. I mean, I would argue this is a hell of a lot more like when I was pushing Clinton to go into Bosnia. This is a hell of a lot more like ending genocide, where we had to unilaterally act. We went to the United Nations, and the United Nations was unwilling to act, and we eventually go to the point where, quite frankly, I think the French and others were shamed into acting once we decided we were going to act. Up to that time, people sat -- I sat in Sarajevo talking to people who had been butchered, their families, I mean, literally, the day, two, three days before. And Lord Owen was talking about cantonization of -- the foreign minister of Great Britain -- the cantonization of Bosnia. And we were talking about getting the U.N. in.
The U.N. was the problem -- not their fault. The U.N. stood there and watched people in Srebrenica get loaded onto trucks with the whole world watching and drug off to stand above a pit, get their brains blown out and put in mass graves. The U.N. did not intentionally but it indirectly facilitated. I remember speaking with General Rose, heading up the U.N., wearing a blue helmet, him telling me, you can't bring in air power, you may strike one of the U.N. forces. So, I mean, at some point, you got to establish the peace.
I'm talking much too much, but my frustration is, like yours, intense. I've concluded there's no way anything's going to happen unless the president of the United States says something's going to happen. And they're going to have to take a great risk. Other than that, we're going to beat up on you, we're going to beat up on the U.N., and the truth of the matter is, it is beyond the capacity of the U.N. without the willingness of Khartoum to genuinely cooperate, without the willingness of the rebels to genuinely begin to negotiate. And in the meantime, there's an old expression attributable to a world-famous economist: In the long run, they'll all be dead. They'll all be dead, in the long run.
Nothing is -- the best thing that's happened so far, in my opinion, Doctor, is the fact that you and the EU have committed 3,700 EU troops on the ground, because that will end what's happening in those camps. It will significantly reduce the killing going on in the camps and people outside the camps. It will continual (sic) impact on the cross-border raids. Short of that, I don't know what you can do, but do you hear any talk about not the United States, none of the big powers, but this Muslim-U.S. conundrum? Is that a topic of discussion?
MS. LUTE: By and large, Senator, that is not a major feature of the conversation. It is the other commitments that exist that permit or preclude member states from committing, and the same is true with the United States.
SEN. BIDEN: I -- again, I'll yield to anybody who has any questions. I would like to give to you -- and I know we have a second panel -- my staff is telling me get going here, but I want to -- Article 43 is the article that says "all members of the United States, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary purpose," et cetera, et cetera. That's Article 43, Section 1.
I'm going to, just for your benefit -- I'm going to give you a copy of that proposal I made in 1992, and I would appreciate your constructive criticism of whether or not it may be more feasible today than it was in 1992, because it's more along the lines of what you were saying you need to have in waiting, in effect, this capacity.
So are there any further questions for the doctor?
Doctor, again, thank you for your service. What rank were you in the military?
MS. LUTE: I was a major, sir.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I tell you what. You talk like a really tough sergeant, Major. I mean, I tell you what, I don't think anybody gave you any guff, and I'm glad you're in the position you're in.
MS. LUTE: I have a 3-year-old.
Sir, if you'll permit me, Mr. Chairman, you have been very kind, and the senators have been kind in complimenting me. And I would just like to say in response is that the ones that deserve the compliments are the young men and women -- the young soldiers who are peacekeepers, who go to these places expecting the worst humanity has to offer, and the young civilians, some of whom I have with me today, who go to these places believing in the best humanity has to offer. This is the combination of peacekeeping. And so it's my privilege just to be one of their number.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, it's our privilege to have you here, and it seems to me it's our obligation as one of the leaders in the world to try to get the major nations to move in a position where we establish peace before you have to go keep it.
But, anyway, thank you very, very much, Doctor.
Our next panel and our last panel is the Honorable Richard Williamson, president's special envoy to Sudan, who a lot of the questions we had might more appropriately be directed to him; and the Honorable Katherine Almquist, who is the assistant ambassador for Africa-U.S. Agency for International Development. Both have equally difficult jobs.
I welcome them, and I particularly welcome back Mr. Williamson, the special envoy, who had some very strong words a year ago. We may have -- we'd have been better if we'd listened to him, I think.
But anyway, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. Thank you for your patience. And why don't we recognize you for your statements in the order in which you were called, and if you do not want to do your whole statement, we will include it in the record, and you can summarize, but the floor is yours.
It's good to have you back. Thank you.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've submitted a lengthy written statement and look forward to the opportunity for questions and trying to respond to them, and I deeply appreciate the interest of the members of this committee in the terrible situation that is ongoing in Sudan. Rather than go through my written statement, I'd like to make just a few observations, including regarding the dialogue that's now going on, which was in The New York Times last week.
First, I think it's important to recognize that there are a lot of bad actors in Sudan in Darfur. The government in its reply to a rebel attack in 2003 opened the gates of hell. Since then, the Arab militia, the Janjawid, the "devils on horseback," sometimes in coordinated attacks with the government, now sometimes on their own, are engaged in terrible acts. And rebels also -- rebel movements are also engaged in acts that harm innocent civilians.
I have a slightly different take on the question of whether or not there's a peace to keep. I first became involved in U.N. peacekeeping over 25 years ago in my first ambassadorship. I think, in my opinion, in Sudan, you will not move to peace until you change facts on the ground. And a key to changing facts on the ground is moving some more towards sustainable stability.
I agree with you, Mr. Chairman. I think the deployment of the EUFOR forces is important; those 3,700 European forces and their activity on the Chad border is important to gain security. That's why last Monday I had discussions in Paris, including with Foreign Minister Kouchner exactly about that, because the bleeding of violence in Chad into Darfur and the bleeding of violence from Sudan into Chad are interlinked, and progress has to be made on both sides.
Further -- and so the deployment, and I hope I have a chance to discuss the particulars, of these peacekeepers are very urgent. They are not the answer in Darfur. They are not the answer for peace, but they will contribute to more stability. It will crowd out the space in which bad actors can be perpetuating atrocities, insecurity, preventing humanitarian assistance to flow, et cetera.
Second, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, and others who have commented that there needs to be progress on a political solution. I cannot sit here and say I am optimistic that we are making that progress. I am in frequent contact with my old friend Jan Eliasson, the U.N. mediator, and in fact talked to him this morning about his most recent trip. And we, of course, support Ambassador Eliasson and AU Representative Salim in their efforts.
But if I can, let me just talk through the events that went on for the last three months that have resulted in a dialogue going forward. At Addis Ababa at about the AU summit, the Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor, who is from the south and a member of the SPLM, in a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and I, approached us and gave us the message that President Bashir and the NCP, then in consultation with the SPLM members of the National Unity Government had a series of meetings and wanted to make an overture to see if it was possible to have an adjustment of relations with the United States.
After consultation back with Washington, the secretary of State invited Foreign Minister Deng Alor to come here for a discussion. He did so, along with Mustafa Ismail, a principal adviser of President Bashir and a member of the NCP. There were a series of meetings with Deputy Secretary Negroponte, Assistant Secretary Frazer and myself and then with Secretary Rice in which this was explored.
Secretary Rice made absolutely clear that this should not be an initiative. And it -- (inaudible) -- that we'd had a trail of broken promises and broken efforts in the past in any discussion with the government of Sudan and that it would not be good for the government of Sudan unless it was a serious effort. They assured us it was.
After some deliberation, we then proceeded to prepare a document with specific, actionable, verifiable steps. We've had lots of promises about peace and other generalities, stability. Some items we developed with the help of Kate Almquist and USAID on the humanitarian side dealt with specific matters such as multiple entry visas, humanitarian workers visas within 48 hours, containers in the Port of Sudan released within seven days allowing the syrup corn product, which is high in nutrition and is used all over the world to deal with malnutrition of children and have been prevented from being allowed into Sudan, that they would be entered, et cetera.
We sent that paper. Then I traveled to Sudan. I had a series of meetings in Khartoum, of course traveled to Darfur, visited a camp, et cetera. I met with UNAMID officers and in Juba sat down with Salva Kiir to review this and to share it before we went up back to Khartoum to meet with Dr. Nafi and President Bashir and give them a copy of this (non ?) paper, outlining the sort of things we would need for any discussion. And let me emphasize that we said repeatedly that we were laying out a long, tough road that had to be verifiable and progress on the ground for any better relations.
Also let me say that in my conversation with President Bashir, he said he was suspicious of the United States. We've had a troubled relationship. They feel there were certain representations when the CPA was signed and the DPA that we've not followed through on. Of course, we felt it's impossible to follow through on them because of the continued violence in Darfur. But I also said to him, we think the government of Sudan lies. There's going to be nothing taken on faith, nothing on promises.
I refer to my first diplomatic work during the Reagan administration 25 years ago, when President Reagan called the Soviets the Evil Empire. Nonetheless, on nuclear nonproliferation, we made deals step-by-step, verifiable. We were able to make some progress. And while in many areas in those days, we couldn't, at least in the nonproliferation area, we built some bridges and did make some progress.
The government of Sudan replied a couple of weeks later with their paper, which we -- I think I'll give a -- maybe I'm a generous grader. They got their bat on the ball; they didn't hit it very far. We shared it with them. We agreed to have meetings in Paris. We made clear that past agreements, such as the Joint Communique on Humanitarian Issues, the CPA, cease-fire, et cetera, were not part of these discussions; those were commitments they had to live up to. We went through the various specific things I've alluded to earlier, and we said if there is change on the ground -- we promise nothing up front -- but if there is change on the ground and these things are happening, which we believe would help alleviate humanitarian assistance, would contribute to greater stability, then we would look at taking steps.
Let me emphasize what we've done is outlined, laid out in detail a long, tough road to better relations, similar to how Senator Jack Danforth did when he was the president's special envoy to Sudan and initiated the talks on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and he laid out what the government of Sudan must do.
Senator, I wish I could sit here and say I'm optimistic that this will be fully successful. I also wish I could tell you that in the foreseeable future, there's possibility for peace. There are a lot of bad actors who have done incomprehensibly evil things to innocent people. The violence continues. The genocide in slow motion continues. But one thing I know is we can take practical steps to get boots on the ground. We have done them. I'll look forward during the question and answer period to outline them in more detail. I know we can do a better job of humanitarian assistance.
Last year the areas accessible for humanitarian assistance have shrunk. That means more people aren't getting the aid they got just a year ago. Even as you mention in your opening statement, 90,000 more people have been driven from their homes because of violence near El Geneina. We do think a political dialogue is necessary. We support the U.N.-AU effort. We also will have our discussions, which I have talked to rebel leaders as well as government of Sudan officials and of course consultation with the southern government.
Let me finally say, any progress in Darfur is contingent on the continued implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And there have been times it's seemed threatened. It has been frayed. There were concerns, legitimate concerns, it might unravel. The United States continues to be deeply engaged to try to give every support it can for that process to continue to keep the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on track. We're pleased an arrangement was worked out between the north and the south so the census could go forward in a few days. We're pleased the SPLM will have its first political convention next month. We're disappointed there hasn't been progress on the Abyei border. We're disappointed that there are other issues that remain outstanding, including the transparency of oil revenue sharing.
But as you said, Mr. Chairman, and other members of this committee, this is a complex issue. But I don't think its complexity is an excuse for us not to make progress, and I do know progress will result by getting more boots on the ground. Progress will result if we can get humanitarian aid to more people. Progress will result if we work more closely with the French and others on the joint problem in Chad, in Darfur, where there's cross-border support, cross-border travel, and Darfurians, either in IDP camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in eastern Chad, continue to be terrorized.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MS. ALMQUIST: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to testify on Darfur and eastern Chad and our programs in Sudan. I've submitted a longer written statement for the record that I hope will be added. Thank you.
As Ambassador Williamson has just said, we are three years into the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and this is the most important thing for the overall stability and unity of the country, and our assistance programs across the map of Sudan continue to focus on implementation of the CPA and all of its related aspects. It is as much important for Darfur as it for north-south and the rest of the country.
Sudan is USAID's largest program in Africa and among the largest in the world. It's our top foreign policy priority in Africa. Darfur is the largest international humanitarian operation in the world, providing life-saving assistance to more than 4 million people each year. Some 2.5 (million) nearly are displaced inside Darfur; another 250(,000), 260,000 are refugees in Chad and the Central African Republic. We have a massive investment in this humanitarian operation. We are the largest bilateral donor, providing assistance, more than ($)1.5 billion since 2004 to Darfur and eastern Chad. Our total program for Sudan has averaged around ($)750 million for the last several years.
Today in Darfur, however, we face the most formidable challenges in our long-term commitment to helping the Sudanese transition toward peace and stability. Insecurity is affecting humanitarian operations, and it's at its highest point, and our ability to access people in need is at its lowest point since 2005. This is because of fighting among the Sudanese armed forces, tribal militias and rebel groups, who continue to kill, injure, displace and otherwise terrorize the civilian population.
Since January 1st of this year, aerial bombardment and clashes between these groups have displaced a further 100,000 Darfuris. In addition, banditry and lawlessness severely impede humanitarian aid deliveries on a daily basis.
With most camps in their fourth or fifth year of existence, the infrastructure of assistance is largely in place, and people in camps are for the most part receiving food, water, health services and other life-saving interventions. However, with insecurity worsening and access decreasing, humanitarian conditions are precarious. Miraculously, the World Food Program is still able to reach over 90 percent of its intended beneficiaries, despite the numerous obstacles that confront both bureaucratic and security. Yet Darfuris are tired in living in the camps, and the communities are becoming increasingly polarized and politicized and violent. In addition, many camps have reached capacity, but the newly displaced continue to arrive.
The people affected by this conflict desperately need life-saving assistance, but it is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to provide it. In addition to the increasing bureaucratic obstacles by the government of Sudan impeding humanitarian assistance, each day brings more danger and more challenges for the more than 14,000 humanitarian workers who risk their own lives to provide assistance to Darfuris. According to the United Nations, assailants have killed six aid workers and abducted 90 staff members in Darfur this year, including 36 U.N. World Food Program-contracted drivers, 26 of whom still remain missing.
So far in 2008, bandits have hijacked over 100 vehicles from humanitarian organizations and UNAMID, twice as many as the same period in 2007, and three times as many as the same period in 2006. As a result of attacks on WFP-contracted commercial transport perpetrated by tribal militias and rogue rebel elements, starting in May, WFP will cut by half the amount of cereals, pulses and sugar provided to 2.45 million Darfuris in their general ration. WFP is planning to resume full rations and expand the number of Darfuris receiving food assistance in time for the June to September hunger gap, but if attacks on convoys continue and the GOS does not bolster security for the convoys to get the food from the ports and the distribution points into Darfur, WFP may be forced to make further cuts in the ration.
Delivery of food assistance is not the only worry for the humanitarian operation. Security for all types of aid operations on the ground has steadily declined over 2007 and this year, in 2008. Access is now at an all-time low. Cessation of all attacks on humanitarian operations is essential to ensuring that aid can continue to be delivered to the millions of Darfuris who rely on international assistance for survival. At a minimum, the government of Sudan must remove its bureaucratic impediments to aid and should immediately increase the number and frequency of police escorts for commercial transports, carrying humanitarian supplies, and further ensure security for humanitarian and commercial traffic along the routes most affected by military and rebel operations, banditry and lawlessness.
Even if the bureaucratic and security challenges to the delivery of aid are rectified, humanitarian assistance cannot ultimately resolve the conflict in Darfur. It is merely a Band-Aid attempting to mitigate the worst effects of the conflict. Lasting resolution requires recognition of the conflict's changing dynamic since it began five years ago. Fundamentally, popular support for the rebellion, the resistance, continues because the people of Darfur do not believe their grievances have yet been met. Darfuris want to know that their families, their land, their livestock will be protected from a predatory attack, that basic social services will be provided by their government, that the lost assets essential to sustain their families and communities will be restored, that critical issues to the long- term sustainability of Darfur's economy and social structure will be dealt with transparently and fairly, issues of access to land and to water, and finally that they'll have meaningful participation, first and foremost, in their own regional affairs and, secondarily, in the national affairs of the country.
The transition from the African Union mission in Sudan to the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, since the beginning of the year has yet to improve the security situation for the civilian population, as we've been hearing. The security situation is ultimately the responsibility of the GOS; nevertheless, each additional day that the UNAMID cannot provide civilian protection its credibility among Darfuris diminishes and the difficulty of its task increases exponentially.
Effective deployment is therefore of paramount importance to creating an enabling environment for a durable political settlement to be found and ultimately for displaced people to be able to return home.
Redoubling our efforts to find this durable political framework to address the grievances of the Darfuri people, African and Arab alike, is equally vital to finding this resolution. Key spoilers to this process -- and Ambassador Williamson has been talking to a number of them -- must somehow be managed. This includes rebel leaders who variously wield significant political power over displaced communities or impressive military capability that allows them to prosecute war against the Sudanese government and its proxy forces.
The situation in eastern Chad is inextricably linked to what is happening in Darfur and the security threats facing humanitarian operations there are similar to those in Darfur. USAID continues to provide humanitarian assistance for 250,000 Sudanese refugees, 180,000 displaced people, and many of the 700,000 affected populations that are permanent residents of eastern Chad in the areas of refugee flows and displacement.
Conflict and banditry continually disrupt operations nevertheless, and as long as the governments of Sudan and Chad continue to manipulate pre-existing domestic political animosities by fueling each other's armed oppositions, any viable solution or peace and stability on either side of the border will not be possible.
While we've struggled to overcome the challenges facing Darfur and eastern Chad, it's an equally critical time in the implementation of the CPA. Ambassador Williamson has mentioned the census enumeration. In fact, it's just begun yesterday after much controversy and some further delay in the south.
In Darfur, it's even more of a flashpoint. The people of Darfur, one, don't understand the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, they don't understand the Darfur Peace Agreement, which is predicated on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and they feel that the census will solidify (facts ?) on the ground that do not represent their interests in terms of displaced populations and other outsiders who may have come in and settled on their lands while they've been in IDP camps.
Therefore, this process of the census is a critical testing point these next couple of weeks for the entire country as the democratic transformation of Sudan unrolls and moves towards elections which are due to take place by July of 2009.
USAID remains committed to carrying out the full range of humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction and development activities that are vital to supporting Sudanese efforts to consolidate peace in southern Sudan and in Darfur.
And just before concluding, I would like to take a moment to remember two of our USAID colleagues who were murdered in Khartoum on January 1st this year.
John Granville was a USAID Foreign Service officer and dedicated to making democracy a reality for people at all levels of society. And he worked for many years on Sudan and other parts of Africa and was an invaluable member of our team. He in particular put significant effort into our support for the census and the technical assistance that was provided to southern Sudan for this process to happen.
Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama was a Sudanese Foreign Service national and an original member of USAID's Disaster Assistance Response Team in Darfur in 2004. And by virtue of his role as one of our drivers, he got to know all of our staff personally and individually and was also a very valuable member of our team.
We miss these colleagues and friends very much, and their commitment and dedication will continue to guide our efforts toward a just, stable and peaceful Sudan.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to your questions.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. And on behalf of all of us, we really do appreciate the significant physical risk that you and your colleagues have taken.
We'll do seven-minute rounds, if that's okay.
And Ambassador, I have some questions for you that I'd like to make them fairly pointed. If you'd give me relatively short answers and expand on it later if you wish, it would be helpful as I try to stay within my time here.
We all know the story -- December 31st U.N. joined the African Union, take charge, 7,700 folks on the ground then. We're now up to 9,200 folks on the ground, protect 4 million people in the affected area. It's 26,000 authorized.
What's the primary obstacle, if you had to summarize it? And I'm asking you to summarize it for me. What's the primary obstacle that the U.N.-African Union force achieving operational capacity? Why haven't they achieved it by now?
MR. WILLIAMSON: I think there was a lack of sense of urgency on all parties leading up the transfer.
I think that there was an extra challenge because there had been an agreement that it would be predominantly an African troop-filled force, and there was a lack of capacity in many of the African countries for peacekeeping. I was in northeastern Sierra Leone when Nigeria had its first peacekeepers there in '02. They have learned an enormous amount. Nigeria's now quite good.
We had many countries without the capacity. That's why President Bush stepped forward, made $100 million commitment for training and equipping African forces, and we're now working with Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali and
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, how long do you think it's going to take to have a sufficient number of troops trained to actually get to the point where we have 26,000 deployed?
When I met with the commander of the AU on the border -- this is now -- (aside) -- how many years ago were we there? -- four years -- he said the mandate he had then was peacekeeping. And his folks, his troops would actually stand there and watch. There wasn't much they could do. They'd stand there and watch the Janjawid make a son rape his wife -- I mean his mother. He'd actually he showed us vivid photographs that they had. He said well, there's nothing we can do; our mandate is we cannot intervene, you know.
So I assume the folks we're training are trained to shoot straight and keep the peace. In your professional estimation, how much longer will it take for us to have help trained with the $100 million we have? I understand the Rwandans are doing pretty well. How long will it take to get a contingent of 26,000 forces on the ground?
MR. WILLIAMSON: It'll take awhile. Can I just say two things --
SEN. BIDEN: Sure.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- quick?
One of the things important in the resolution passed last July, it was under Chapter 7, which means the peacekeepers can be more robust. It's not just a monitoring force.
SEN. BIDEN: Right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Second, we do have a deployment schedule that we've pushed and worked with through the U.N. and I can go through it very quickly, but the bottom line is we'll have about an increase of 6,500 more troops by the end of this year solely because of our African partners and the U.S. assistance in training and equipping.
SEN. BIDEN: So if we're lucky we get 6,500, get us around 15,000 forces on the ground within the next six months?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Sir --
SEN. BIDEN: Seven months.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- we will have the troops trained. We will have the troops ready to deploy. Right now the U.N. does not have the capacity to absorb them.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, they never have, have they? I mean --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Sir --
SEN. BIDEN: -- the U.N. doesn't have that capacity, do they?
MR. WILLIAMSON: They have a budget of $1.28 billion for 12 months --
SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, but do they have cargo planes, do they have helicopters, do they
MR. WILLIAMSON: (Inaudible) -- 26 percent.
SEN. BIDEN: (Inaudible.)
MR. WILLIAMSON: (Inaudible) -- and they haven't spent.
SEN. BIDEN: But spent on what?
MR. WILLIAMSON: (Inaudible) -- on camps, sir. Right now the camps they have the U.S. paid for.
SEN. BIDEN: No, no, I got that. I'm just trying to focus on one thing.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. BIDEN: The physical requirements to logistically put 26,000 trained African Union forces with U.N. blue helmets leading them on the ground in Darfur.
I understand the other pieces, and they're legitimate. But I'm curious, you say by the end of this calendar year -- seven months from now, whenever it is, eight months -- we will have the United States will have trained another 6,500 forces.
MR. WILLIAMSON: We will have trained 9,200.
SEN. BIDEN: Total.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Sixty-five new ones.
SEN. BIDEN: That's what I'm saying, 6,5(00) new ones, 9,200 total; there's 9,200 on the ground now not all trained by us.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yes.
SEN. BIDEN: So that we would have roughly 15(,000) to 16,000 troops at least theoretically available, 9,3(00) there, another 6,5(00) to come, but they'll be trained by the end of the year. And I understand, by the way, I say to both of you that, you know, putting boots on the ground doesn't solve the political problem.
But that's an interesting thing. It keeps my daughter alive. It keeps my son alive. It keeps my wife from being raped. It keeps me being put in a grave. So it does have some effect.
You know, as I said -- I'll use the phrase again in the long run, they'll all be dead if we -- so I've never -- anyway, back to the question.
It's not a criticism, it's a question, a genuine question: What is the expectation that you have as a seasoned diplomat involved in these kinds of things -- nothing quite like this, but you've been involved in an awful lot -- will it by this time next year, will there be 15,000 qualified forces on the ground with communications equipment, with the ability, the infrastructure to be able to maintain logistically 15,000 troops that are able to exert force to keep the peace on the ground?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yes, sir. I'd say there's been a change both because of the U.S. being more proactive, but also I want to give credit to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who has personally gotten more involved and been forward leaning and helpful.
SEN. BIDEN: Okay.
MR. WILLIAMSON: And let me just -- if I could, sir, briefly -- one of the mechanisms we've put together that's been enormously helpful is the Friends of UNAMID Group, chaired by the Canadians and ourselves --
SEN. BIDEN: Right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- with 14 other countries who can give assistance. And let me just give you one example.
One of the difficulties is most of these African countries have never negotiated an MOU for a deployment. We've broken them up, so Senegal -- France has adopted, if you will, is working with them, helping them with the negotiations. These are the kind of needless impediments we have tried to get through, and I think we're going to be successful.
SEN. BIDEN: No, I -- again, I'm not taking issue with that. What I'm trying to get at is what in the meantime is going to happen while this deployment goes on? Is there anything we could do temporarily that will prevent the Janjawid being transported by Sudanese helicopters, sitting above villages, wiping people out, riding in on horseback, wiping out, burning villages to the ground? Would a no-fly zone, which is totally within our wheelhouse to be able to do, would that be helpful or would that be hurtful?
What can we do to tell those people in the camps you visited, I visited, other visited that, by the way, there's a chance you'll be alive next year by the time we get these troops on the ground? Is there anything we can do?
MR. WILLIAMSON: I think there's a few things.
One, we have to have serious discussions with President Deby and the Chad government to stop their support of the JEM, which in turn are initiating military offensives for which the government then responds in a totally disproportionate way, killing innocent civilians, creating the rapes, the burnings of villages, et cetera.
SEN. BIDEN: Increasing, not creating.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Increasing.
Second, we have to try to put pressure on those countries that Sudan listens to more carefully than they do us.
SEN. BIDEN: China?
MR. WILLIAMSON: It would be nice.
SEN. BIDEN: Not likely, is it?
Okay, my time's up. I'm over. Let me just conclude by saying, you know, we heard from the U.N. representative earlier about the need for engineers on the ground. I understand Norway just withdrew their offer after the Sudanese stonewalling that took place. I understand there's a possibility maybe they'll accept troops from Tibet and Nepal. The Chinese may support Tibetan troops to go to -- that may be a possibility; they may have a self-interest in that.
But all kidding aside, I don't see anything that is going to in the near term, meaning in the next two, three, four, five, six months, not be on New Year's Day, when we look at the numbers, see another 90(,000), 100,000, 125,000 innocent women and children either dead or displaced.
I don't know what happens in the meantime, and that's the part I'm focusing on. But I've spoken too long. I yield to my friend from Tennessee.
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