CJTF-HOA helps mend rift between U.S. and Sudan

20 May 2003 | Cpl. Andrew W. Miller

A Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa United States military aircraft, on a logistics support mission, landed in Sudan May 17. It was the first time an American aircraft has landed in Sudan in ten years, according to Army Col. Dennis Giddens, a U.S. Defense Liaison Officer (DLO) in Sudan.

The C130 Hercules airplane transported CJTF- HOA service members to Khartoum International Airport (KIA), where it was met by Giddens and a number of Sudanese military officers.

The opportunity for CJTF-HOA personnel to visit Sudan highlights progress toward improving the overall relationship between the U.S. and Sudan. According to Giddens, native of Jacksonville, Fla., the deterioration of the relationship between the United States and Sudan began in 1989 when several terrorist organizations found Sudan to be a safe haven, and Osama Bin Laden lived there from 1993 to approximately 1996. 

At that time, Giddens said, the United States downsized the embassy and terminated their U.S. military assistance to Sudan.  No U.S. military aircraft has been there since 1993.

However, important changes have been made, and relationships are being renewed, according to Giddens. Approximately one year ago, the Sudanese government invited the United States Government to open a U.S. Military Liaison Office in Khartoum.   

Lately, Sudan has also been proactive in the war against terrorism, working to deny terrorists safe havens and means to operate, Giddens said. The government recently jailed Hassan Turabi, the Sudanese leader, who in 1993, allowed Bin Laden and other terrorists to operate here.

"Today is an important part of history," said Sudanese Army Capt. Hidar Mohamad Ahmd Mokhtar, ministry of defense protocol.  "Everyone in the airport was talking excitedly asking when the Americans were going to arrive."

Giddens was chosen to represent the U.S. Department of Defense to the Sudan Armed Forces by the Office of Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs (OSD-ISA) based on his experience in the area. He was instrumental in the ceasefire negotiation between the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement Nuba Mountains and the Sudanese government in Jan. 19, 2002.

"I am very proud of our accomplishments with the government here," said Giddens. "Landing here today is symbolic because what pushed our two countries apart 10 years ago is now pulling us together and that is the war against terrorism."
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