A request for military assistance by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir over the weekend has resulted in a U.S. decision to take over security in the capital city of Juba, two senior officials told Fox News.
Nathaniel Feigenbaum, the State Department spokesperson for South Sudan, said he has no further details at this time. It was not immediately clear if the administration was ready to put the soldiers on the ground, but the decision comes after a seven-month stay of armed peacekeepers from China and the United Nations.
The Chinese called their deployment premature, and last week they withdrew all their military support. On Saturday, a senior Pentagon official told Fox News the administration’s response will likely involve providing American military support.
Speaking to Fox News, a senior administration official said Kiir’s request for help has come after a U.N. report found that the ceasefire and peace talks have failed and continues to support the armed opposition groups.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Chinese military support as “unhelpful” to Kiir’s administration.
A day earlier, two prominent leaders said they made a plea to American government officials over the weekend to intervene in the growing humanitarian crisis in Juba following three months of fighting that has taken thousands of lives.
President Salva Kiir is accused of using excessive force against his opponents, including ethnic violence. Gen. Peter Gadet, who was the defense minister under former President Salva Kiir, told the “Gabriel” program on Radio Tamazuj that they had asked State Department to intervene and treat the humanitarian issue as a priority.
“We tried to make contact with all the American agencies and embassies to contact the South Sudanese government in the Juba and to end the crisis,” he said, adding that he had been in contact with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“But since the US did not respond to our request, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he said.
President Kiir spoke to President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, and the two men discussed a plan to bolster security in Juba, Spokesman John Nesh said.
Meanwhile, rebel leader Riek Machar has not been seen in public since last month, but he has since made a statement calling for international intervention.
Machar has called for a stop to violence in the country and insisted that his fellow Sudanese who have joined his forces have not been enlisted to fight against President Kiir. Machar returned to South Sudan after spending years in exile in South Africa due to fighting.
Machar currently is the chairman of the Southern Sudanese Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (SIGAD).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.