SAF and Allied Forces
Western military sources estimate that 40,000 regular troops from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are dedicated to the Darfur area, and probably the same number of Border Guard, police, security, and militia forces. Additional SAF units are based in Darfur but focused on the border between Northern and South Sudan. Capability is dependent on enabling assets, particularly air support, which vary depending on threat levels and other activities in Sudan.
Control over the SAF in Darfur was centralized in Khartoum in 2009 with the abolition of the Western Military Command in al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State. Since the beginning of the insurgency in Darfur in 2003, the commander of the 6th Infantry Division in al Fasher had had overall command responsibility for all SAF forces operating in Darfur, including the air force. With the reform, all three sectors-in North Darfur, the 16th Infantry Division in Nyala in South Darfur, and the 22nd Brigade in al Geneina in West Darfur, reported to be a division in all but name-report directly to Khartoum.
Subordinate brigades are located in major towns in Darfur, which in turn deploy battalions in smaller towns, and so on down to the company level. An informed source cited by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Sudan, set up to monitor a Security Council ban on arms transfers to Darfur, has put the total number of garrisons in Darfur at 263 (for a population of more than six million, of whom 2.7 million are displaced in camps).
Russian Mi-17 and Mi-32 helicopter gunships, Sukhoi and MiG-29 fighter jets, and Chinese-made A-5 'Fantan' jets have all been sighted in Darfur, as well as white Antonov 26 transport aircraft used as crude bombers. The UN Panel has provided evidence that Antonovs have been painted white-the colour of many UN and relief agency planes flying in Darfur. One had 'UN' painted on a wing in a clear attempt to disguise its identity.
Morale among SAF soldiers in Darfur has been undermined by counterinsurgency operations-Sudan's regular forces proved unable to adapt to the mobile style of warfare imposed by the insurgents-and by collaboration with the government-supported 'janjaweed' militias, which many professional officers feel have undermined both standards and discipline within the force.
Indeed, Sudanese army troops have developed a reputation for being ineffective, poorly-motivated, and politically unreliable. Speaking privately, senior government officials have told Western diplomats in Khartoum they have used paramilitary forces and militias, including the 'janjaweed' in Darfur, because of the weakness of the regular army. After the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006, Western military sources said the army was given 'one last chance', to crush the factions that had refused to sign the agreement. Large numbers of troops and amounts of ammunition were flown in to al Fasher. In the subsequent offensive against non-signatories in North Darfur, however, it suffered a series of crushing defeats.
For information on SAF-allied forces in Darfur, see below.
- Border Intelligence Brigade (Border Guards)
- Popular Defence Forces (al Difa'a al Shaabi)
- Central Reserve Police (al Ittihad al Merkazi)
Updated November 2010
Relevant HSBA Publications
- The Paramilitary Revolution: The Popular Defence Forces, by Jago Salmon (December 2007) (in Arabic)