After days of fighting in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan, it became clear that the Rapid Support Forces’ (RSF) primary objective was to neutralize the country’s major air bases and airports. This strategy drew inspiration from the Syrian Opposition Forces’ plan in the early years of the Syrian conflict. The RSF was unsuccessful in this and only managed to take over the airport in Merowe, north Sudan, the Jabal Awliya air base, south of the capital, and two airports in the western Darfur region, namely Al-Fashir airport in the state of North Darfur and Sabera International Airport in the state of West Darfur.
As a result of the RSF’s inability to maintain control over all air bases, the Sudanese Air Force had the chance to use MiG-29 fighters and Mi-35 combat helicopters to target the RSF’s bases and vehicles in Khartoum. Despite some challenges related to the nature of the urban battlefield and the Sudanese Air Force’s limited technical and operational proficiency, it managed to destroy a significant number of these vehicles by air, as these vehicles lack shielding or lamination.
The use of the air force was crucial in allowing the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) to take control of the six RSF headquarters in the vicinity of the capital, including the Soba camp to the south of the capital, Taiba camp to the north, Salha camp in Omdurman, and the largest base of the RSF, in Karari to the north of Omdurman. Furthermore, the RSF was unable to maintain its headquarters, which house logistical reserves, in the Blue Nile, White Nile, Port Sudan in the north of the country, El-Gadarif, Kadugli, the state capital of South Kordofan, Kassala, and Kosti, the biggest city in the White Nile State.
Inadequate ammunition, insufficient intelligence, and inadequate logistics all hampered the RSF’s progress. The RSF moved in discrete small groups that were all transported in lightly armed pickup trucks. As a result, when they reached the streets of the capital and other far-flung locales such as the city of Merowe in the north of the country, and the city of El-Obeid in North Kordofan, they encountered difficulties obtaining the ammunition, sustainment supplies, and medical supplies they required. They also encountered communication issues with their field command and the central RSF operations room. This may be partially attributed to the possibility that these forces were moved in accordance with a pre-planned strategy that did not include direct field instructions following the start of operations. An interview the RSF’s political advisor gave to the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel hinted at this. In light of this, we can draw the following conclusions:
- The current battlefield situation revealed that the RSF attempted to cut off communication between the north and south of the capital at a later stage of the first day of fighting by obstructing traffic between those areas and the south of the capital, specifically the Nemer Bridge connecting Khartoum and Bahri, the White Nile Bridge connecting Khartoum and Omdurman, and the Shambat Bridge connecting Omdurman and Khartoum North, with the aim of stopping regular forces from moving troops to secure the state television building. However, the RSF were unable to seize control of the TV station because they lacked the necessary heavy military vehicles.
- The RSF’s lack of heavy artillery support and tanks was also a key factor, as its arsenal consisted primarily of four-wheel drive Land Cruiser vehicles with anti-tank recoilless cannons, medium anti-aircraft guns, and 107 and 122 caliber rocket launchers, while the regular forces had a cohesive armored force and a sizable artillery force that allowed them to quickly dispatch T-55 and T-72 tanks to provide direct fire.
- Human resources also tip the scales heavily in favor of the regular forces, who boast around 205,000 soldiers (100,000 active forces plus 55,000 paramilitary support forces) compared to the RSF’s maximum of 100,000 (a large portion of whom are based in Darfur). Notably, a significant portion of the RSF was attached to regular Sudanese military apparatus at one point, including the intelligence service and other military apparatus. Thus, the SAF’s decision to disband the RSF prompted them to return to their original duty stations in the regular military forces, which negatively impacted the RSF’s performance, particularly on the informational and intelligence levels.
- In light of the foregoing, the assessment of the situation shows that despite the nature of the current military environment in Sudanese cities, the aforementioned factors played a role in the RSF’s failure to accomplish their field objectives, as well as their failure to implement the “shock” principle and utilize time effectively to impose a fait accompli on the field level. Thus, it is likely that the SAF on the ground will achieve a temporary victory in the capital and surrounding states, but the challenge of dealing with the situation will remain in Merowe, North Kordofan, and the states of Darfur, particularly in Al-Fashir, the capital of the state of North Darfur, Nyala, the capital of the state of South Darfur, and Zalingei, the capital of the state of Central Darfur, where the deterrence forces might turn to entrenchment in the states of Darfur and produce a situation similar to what happened in Libya recently, particularly given that the seven military sectors owned by the RSF are primarily situated in the Darfur region.