Unraveling Sudan’s Conflict Nexus – The Arab Wall
Unraveling Sudan’s Conflict Nexus

Unraveling Sudan’s Conflict Nexus

The war in Sudan, now nearing its second year since erupting on April 15th, has prompted numerous countries and agencies to issue warnings regarding its potential repercussions on the resurgence of terrorist organizations. On March 16th, the U.S. National Intelligence Office released a report highlighting the alarming possibility of Sudan evolving into an “ideal environment for international terrorist and criminal networks.”
The ongoing conflict in Sudan seems to be attracting the attention and activities of organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, among others, to Sudanese territory. This trend persists despite the conflict parties’ insistence on perpetuating the war, regardless of its disastrous consequences for Sudan’s unity and the potential for its fragmentation.
Driving Factors
It is noteworthy that there are several factors facilitating the possibility of Sudan turning into a “nurturing environment” for terrorist organizations, the most important of which are as follows:
1- Continued conflict and the risk of state fragmentation: The ongoing military conflict between the army and the Rapid Support Forces increases the likelihood of Sudan moving towards fragmentation, potentially leading to a “failed state” scenario. This situation could amplify the influence of organizations such as “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda” across the region spanning from West to East Africa, thereby making East Africa one of the most perilous regions in terms of terrorist activities.

It is evident that the continuation of the conflict, coupled with the destruction of infrastructure and the rising number of displacement operations, as well as seeking refuge beyond Sudan’s borders, will position Sudan and its neighboring countries such as Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya at the forefront of these organizations’ activities. This trend might even surpass African Sahel countries that have experienced military coups, such as Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
2- Escalation of Security Challenges: The vulnerability of the security environment and societal instability contribute to increasing the likelihood of Sudan becoming a conducive environment for attracting and sheltering terrorist organizations, along with their concentration and activities. This will heighten the severity of security threats posed by these organizations, both internally and regionally.

It is crucial to note that Sudan shares borders with countries where branches of “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda” are active, including the Somali “Al-Shabaab” movement, as well as ISIS branches in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad. This facilitates these organizations’ exploitation of the strategic vacuum resulting from Sudan’s ongoing military conflict for deployment and repositioning, particularly in border areas shared between Sudan and neighboring regional countries. Consequently, Sudan could potentially become a significant source of extremist organizations and terrorist groups in the near future, echoing patterns seen in Afghanistan or Somalia.

3- The Significance of Sudan’s Location for Terrorist Organizations: The unstable security and political conditions, coupled with the extensive and fragile borders, present a favorable environment for the execution of potential projects by organizations such as “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda.” This is particularly true given the opportunities to recruit thousands of individuals into these groups and others, driven by widespread poverty, hunger, and the absence of state care and protection for citizens.

Hence, the current situation in Sudan, marked by societal instability and security vulnerabilities, offers terrorist organizations an opportunity to establish points and bases, as well as to assemble and form active armed cells. This extends not only to border areas near Libya, Chad, and Central Africa but also to the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, which could potentially serve as hubs for support and reinforcement for branches of “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda” if the military conflict persists.

It appears that ISIS relies on its presence in West African countries and its apparent infiltration into the countries of the African Sahel to transport its fighters to Darfur and subsequently to the outskirts of Khartoum. On the other hand, Al-Qaeda depends on its geographical proximity to its strongest concentration points in Somalia. Furthermore, it relies on its active presence in some Sahel countries to provide support for its operations in Sudan.
4- The Centralization of Sudan’s Resources as Sources of Funding: Given Sudan’s abundant natural resources, particularly gold, these assets are of paramount importance to extremist organizations and terrorist groups as potential sources of funding for their activities. Drawing a comparison to the strategies employed by such organizations in African Sahel countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the control of certain gold mining areas within Sudan could become a future objective for these groups, especially in the absence of centralized state authority.

5- The Impact of the Spread of Popular Armament: The escalating calls to permit individuals to purchase weapons for “popular resistance” have raised concerns about Sudan descending into a state of chaotic arms proliferation. This raises the prospect of the emergence of additional armed tribal militias with regional extensions, particularly considering ethnic ties with some neighboring countries of Sudan.

Against the backdrop of Sudan’s security liquidity, or even fragility, the adoption of popular mobilization measures reminiscent of former President Omar al-Bashir’s regime policies could pave the way for the emergence of groups affiliated with terrorist organizations beyond Sudan’s borders. This is particularly worrisome for organizations active in West African and East African countries, such as “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda.” The rush by individuals to acquire weapons will further saturate Sudan with arms, potentially allowing these organizations to exploit security vulnerabilities for arms trading and establishing a presence within the country.

Expected Paths
In this context, it is evident that the unstable environment and the state of security liquidity experienced by Sudan, resulting from the ongoing military conflict, provide favorable conditions for the proliferation of terrorist organizations’ activities. This is particularly significant considering Sudan’s strategic location and abundant natural resources, coupled with the cross-border proliferation of weapons and the rising number of displaced persons.
As anticipated, such instability is likely to lead to several potential scenarios, the most significant of which are twofold:
Firstly, the influx of elements from these organizations from outside Sudan into the country poses a significant threat, as these elements are often unknown and increasingly difficult to monitor amidst the prevailing state of security liquidity.
Secondly, there is a heightened risk of escalating competition among organizations to attract and recruit elements within Sudan. This may lead to the formation of cells capable of carrying out operations deep within the state’s strategic territory and, more critically, capable of exerting control over its resources.