The U.S. has transported the first contingent of an African Union mission to the Darfur region of Sudan. Soldiers will join more than three-hundred observers already there. Eventually, the African Union force in Darfur is expected to include more than three-thousand troops, military observers, and police.
Thousands of African Sudanese have been killed in attacks on their villages by Janjaweed Arab militias supported by the Sudanese government. The attacks have driven about two-million people from their homes into camps, where tens of thousands more have died from disease and malnutrition.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the African Union's mission is essential to providing security for the people of Darfur:
"The deployment...has come after months...of concerted efforts by the United States and others to secure an increase in the number of African Union monitors and protection forces in Darfur. We think this is essential to providing security for the people there, and we hope that the airlift provided by the United States can contribute to that end as the Africans deploy and as they provide better monitoring and supervision on the ground."
Mr. Boucher says that the African Union troops are "empowered to intervene when there is an imminent danger":
"They are going to be deploying through a wide area in Darfur. The presence of observers, the presence of troops under the existing mandate, we think, can be a major stabilizing force. It can help inhibit those who might perpetrate violence and, if necessary, stop them if they're in the process of committing such acts."
The U.S. is providing more than forty-million dollars in logistical support to the African Union mission in Darfur. The European Union and others are also making contributions. The U.S., says State Department spokesman Boucher, is committed to helping restore peace and security, and alleviating the suffering of the Sudanese people.