Washington — The United States praised the cooperation of Sudan with it in countering terrorism during 2011 but fell short of clearing the East African nation from the terrorism sponsoring label it held since 1993.
Washington's annual assessment of global terrorism submitted to congress as required by law that was released today described Khartoum as a "cooperative counterterrorism partner" of the U.S.
According to the report, the Sudanese government continued to work last year on limiting activities of Al-Qaeda inspired groups operating in Sudan while also disrupting foreign fighters' use of Sudan as a "logistics base and transit point for violent extremists going to Iraq and Afghanistan".
But as in previous annual reports, the U.S. said that "gaps" remained in Sudan's knowledge of and ability to identify and capture the extremists.
"There was some evidence to suggest that former participants in the Iraqi insurgency have returned to Sudan and are in a position to use their expertise to conduct attacks within Sudan or to pass on their knowledge. There was also evidence that Sudanese extremists participated in terrorist activities in Somalia, activities that the Government of Sudan has also reportedly attempted to disrupt,".
Washington also noted visits to Khartoum by top leaders of the Palestinian Islamic militant Hamas group which now controls the Gaza strip and their meeting with senior Sudanese officials including president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.
It also highlighted Sudan's relationship with Iran which is also designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The U.S. report also acknowledged that Sudan has made "significant progress" in the establishment and development of its Anti-Money Laundering/Counterterrorist Finance regime.
"Toward the end of 2011, Sudan introduced an inspection program for banks. Sudan has not yet implemented adequate procedures for identifying and freezing terrorist assets, or ensured an effective supervisory program for AML/CTF compliance. Sudan's Financial Intelligence Unit is not fully functional".
The inclusion of Sudan in the list this year comes as no surprise given the U.S. administration insistence that Khartoum makes progress in resolving its inter-country conflicts.
The U.S. also said it wants Sudan to resolve outstanding post-secession issues with South Sudan which have been dragging on for years with no breakthrough.
Sudanese officials accuse Washington of raising the bar by attaching additional conditions. Last year the U.S. administration announced that it initiated the process of delisting Sudan to reward it for facilitating South Sudan's referendum and later recognizing its results.
But new crisis spots that were created in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states appeared to have put the process on hold.
Last week, the Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti summoned the U.S. top diplomat in the country to protest his Washington's policy of dealing with Sudan over the last two decades. Karti warned that the U.S. will not be able to extract concessions from Sudan through pressure.
The U.S. added Sudan to its state terror list in 1993, accusing Khartoum of harboring local and international militants including for a time al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism cannot receive aid or buy weapons from the U.S. and a raft of restrictions on financial and other dealings. The list currently includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Over the last decade the Sudanese government fostered a strong and intimate counterterrorism relation with the U.S. particularly after the September 11, 2011 attacks in New York and Washington.
The United States has so far taken some small initial steps to lift export controls on agricultural machinery to help Sudan's struggling food sector, but has stressed that further progress in normalizing ties is contingent on Khartoum's behavior.
Today's report included an assessment of South Sudan for the first time and noted that given its status as the world's newest country the "counterterrorism efforts and counterterrorist finance legislation remained a work in progress".
"A brand new country, the Government of South Sudan has not yet passed counterterrorism legislation, and it suffers from multiple institutional weaknesses that included insufficient policing and intelligence gathering, inadequate border controls, and deficient aviation security and screening at the country's two international airports in Juba and Malakal".