Sudan—Why Should We Care?


The Threat of a Failed State

This month, Foreign Policy magazine ranked Sudan 3rd in a list of failed states. The Sudanese government is divided according to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, yet even the two governments combined do not control all of Sudan’s military strength. Militant groups like the Janjaweed in Darfur enjoy significant influence in many regions in Sudan, threatening the stability of the entire country.

If Sudan descends further into chaos due to a mishandled referendum vote, it is likely that terrorist networks will move into Sudan as a safe haven. The international community has realized since the attacks on September 11th that failed states are often recruiting bases for terrorist networks. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group in Somalia with strong ties to Al-Qaeda, is a perfect candidate for filling the power vacuum left by the Sudanese government’s collapse. Sudan is an enormous and strategically-placed country that could be a base of operations for terrorist organizations.

Thus, the United States and the international community in general have a strategic interest in keeping Sudan’s government in control. A peaceful outcome in the 2011 referendum would secure the Sudanese government’s control over militant groups, which will keep terrorist networks like Al-Shabaab from using Sudan as a base of operations.

This practical viewpoint may seem cold and calculating, but it is important to see that there are both humanitarian and strategic reasons for working to stabilize Sudan before and after the 2011 referendum. Sudan may be a strategic country to the international community, but it is a very fragile one as well.

Christian Pelfrey is the Summer Security Fellow at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He can be reached at [email protected]. Learn more about the Sudan elections at

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