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U.S. Contribution to Darfur Airlift Operation Begins

American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART-VAIHINGEN, Germany, July 16, 2005 – U.S. European Command began the deployment of airmen and equipment to Kigali, Rwanda, July 14 to provide logistical and airlift support of Rwandan forces as part of the African Union's expanded mission in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

A U.S. Air Force advanced team and a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft loaded with support equipment departed Ramstein Air Base, Germany, en route to Kigali, where a logistics hub will be established to transport some 1,200 Rwandan soldiers to western Sudan over the next several weeks, U.S. European Command officials said in a release.

On July 15, President Bush authorized an additional $6 million in emergency spending for the Defense Department to "to support the transportation of African Union forces to Darfur."

The U.S. airlift is part of NATO's response to support the AU's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur with logistics and training. The mission is part of the larger multinational effort to improve security and create conditions in which humanitarian assistance can reach the people of Darfur, where civil conflict is estimated to have killed tens of thousands and displaced some 2 million more people.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced on June 9 that the alliance would help the AU expand its peacekeeping force in Darfur from 3,300 to about 7,700 in the coming months.

Planning for the airlift mission is being coordinated by the U.S. European Command plans and operations center here, working with NATO logistics planners at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Three U.S. Air Forces in Europe C-130 Hercules transports and approximately 150 airmen from bases at Ramstein and Royal Air Force station Mildenhall, United Kingdom, along with additional strategic support from U.S. Transportation Command, will rotate Rwandan troops from Kigali, to El Fashir, Sudan, beginning in the next few days, officials announced.

About 120 USAFE airmen and two C-130 aircraft from Ramstein deployed to Africa in October 2004 to conduct a similar mission. By mission's end, the C-130s had carried approximately 352 African Union troops and 118,000 pounds of cargo.

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