STUTTGART, Germany -- Nonessential U.S. Embassy personnel were evacuated Friday from South Sudan aboard two KC-130 aircraft assigned to a Marine crisis response team positioned in nearby Uganda.
The State Department said it ordered a reduction in staffing at the embassy in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, citing the deteriorating security situation there.
"We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. "As a result of this drawdown, the U.S. Embassy in Juba will not be able to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in South Sudan."
Also on Friday, the United States announced an additional $49.8 million in assistance to help address the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, where a violent political crisis threatens to thrust Africa's newest state into a full-blown civil war. With the new aid, U.S. assistance amounts to more than $300 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, Harf said.
For the U.S., the violence came to a head on Dec. 21, when four U.S. Navy SEALS were injured after their aircraft came under attack while conducting a rescues mission in South Sudan.
In response to the crisis, the U.S. military has moved troops into South Sudan to ensure the security of personnel and U.S. property.
Soldiers from the East Africa Response Force, assigned to AFRICOM, and under the command and control of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, continue to provide security reinforcement to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, AFRICOM said.
Last week, the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response also was pre-positioned at Entebbe, Uganda, to provide additional support. The unit, from Moron, Spain, was formed less than a year ago to bolster AFRICOM's crisis-response capabilities.
"The Department of Defense, supporting the Department of State, continues to work to ensure the safety and security of our citizens in South Sudan," AFRICOM said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor the security situation in South Sudan in order to be postured to respond to the any additional requests from the Department of State."