​This Situation Assessment was originally published at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies

A year since clashes broke out between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)militias, the Sudanese government has submitted a request for an emergency session of the UN Security Council. The government seeks to discuss "the UAE's aggression against the Sudanese people, and the provision of weapons and equipment to the terrorist militia",[1] in reference to the Rapid Support Forces led by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti. The Sudanese complaint against the UAE coincided with the SAF advance on the ground in Khartoum, whereby the Sudanese engineer corps succeeded in breaking the siege on southern Omdurman and joining the SAF in Wadi Seidna to the north. This enabled the SAF to widen the scope of its control in Omdurman's old neighbourhoods, retaking the national TV and radio headquarters. This marks a remarkable transformation in the dynamics of the conflict with RSF, which made significant gains in recent months vis-a-vis the SAF.

RSF Strategy

Since the overthrow of the Bashir regime in April 2019, RSF leader, Hemedti, has expanded his influence, becoming the second deputy chairman of the Council of Governors as part of the transitional agreement in July 2019.[2] Since then, Hemedti has steadily built up his military capacity by establishing camps, seen in satellite imagery, carefully distributed around the capital in the aim of encircling Khartoum.[3] In the capital itself, the RSF were concentrated in or around many facilities and vital services, such as the Presidential Palace, the national TV and radio headquarters, Khartoum airport, and the main bridges in the capital.[4] This strategic positioning contributed to RSF field advances when the conflict with the SAF broke out in April 2023.

RSF strategy to control Khartoum at the onset of the conflict were implemented in three stages: Initially, it carried out a blitzkrieg assault to seize key sovereign state institutions, such as the locations mentioned above, but it failed to fully control the SAF General Command building. The Presidential Guard successfully evacuated of the SAF commander and head of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, impeding an RSF victory. In the second phase, the RSF attempted to disrupt SAF movements by deploying its forces within residential neighbourhoods in the five localities of Khartoum State, setting up sniper positions inside and above buildings, and preparing ambushes on main and subsidiary roads. This halted the flow of supplies to key SAF locations, including the General Command and Signal Corps buildings.[5] In the third stage, the RSF launched offensives to isolate the capital from neighbouring states and then moved to isolating SAF units from each other inside the capital. It took the initiative early on to isolate North Kordofan State and Darfur State, which constitute most of its social incubator.[6] After seven months of fighting, the RSF succeeded in seizing four out of five military garrisons in the Darfur region and the entire Gezira state following a sudden SAF withdrawal.

RSF Strengths

The RSF exploited the characteristics of urban warfare at an operational level to drag the SAF into an unfamiliar combat environment that would minimize the advantages of their adversary. On the strategic level, several factors, most notably foreign support, played an important role in facilitating the RSF's continued combat capacity. Multiple reports, most notably the report of the United Nations Committee of Experts,[7] credit the UAE and the Wagner Company,[8] Russia's arm in Africa, with playing a major role in providing military support to the RSF, smuggled across Sudan's borders with Chad, the Central African Republic and Libya. This external support is linked to RSF economic activities, specifically gold trade with these parties. The UAE is the main supplier of weapons, with several shipments are unloaded weekly at an airport in eastern Chad, containing weapons, including man-portable air defence systems, drones, and various other ammunition and equipment, which are then transported in trucks across the border.[9] In August 2023, weapons were found on an Emirati cargo plane that was supposed to transport humanitarian aid to Sudanese refugees in Chad...

Read the full paper at The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.