WASHINGTON — President Obama has ordered 47 U.S. troops to South Sudan to help protect the American embassy there after an outbreak of violence in the newly formed nation.
The troops were airlifted into the country Tuesday as part of an effort to evacuate U.S. personnel. Another 130 troops are pre-positioned in nearby Djibouti ready to provide support, Obama told Congress in a letter Wednesday.
Obama's notice fulfills the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, which requires notification of the movement of combat troops into a new country. "Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property," Obama said in his letter to Congress. "These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed."
Noting a "sudden and serious deterioration in the security situation in the capital," the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel from South Sudan on Sunday, although the embassy said it was "a reduction in staff, not an evacuation."
The northeastern African nation was carved out of Sudan in 2011 after a U.S.-supported referendum backed its independence. But it's been embroiled in a civil war since 2013, as rival political factions have turned to violence.
It's not the first time the U.S. military has deployed troops to protect U.S. personnel in South Sudan. Obama ordered a similar deployment of 46 U.S. early-response forces in 2013.