Operation Infinite Justice
President McCain Operation Infinite Justice
An F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-103 is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower during Operation Infinite Justice.
DateMarch 24 - June 5, 2006

Decisive Coalition victory

  • Withdrawal of Sudanese troops from Darfur
  • Genocide in Darfur stopped
  • U.N enforcers into Darfur
Small Logo of the COD (President McCain) Concert of Democracies:*Flag of NATO NATO

Active participation:

  • Flag of the United States United States
  • Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • Flag of Belgium Belgium
  • Flag of Canada Canada
  • Flag of Denmark Denmark
  • Flag of France France
  • Flag of Italy Italy
  • Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands
  • Flag of Norway Norway
Flag of Sudan Republic of Sudan

Small Logo of the COD (President McCain) Sérgio Vieira de Mello
(COD Secretary-General)
Flag of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
(NATO Secretary-General)
Flag of the United States John McCain
(U.S President)
Flag of the United States William E. Ward

Flag of Sudan Omar al-Bashir
(President and Supreme Commander of the Sudanese Army)
Flag of Sudan Mohammad Bashir Sulaiman
(Chief of Staff)
Roundel of the Sudanese Air Force Lt. Gen. Abbas Yusuf Ahmed Al-Badri
(Air Force)
Flag of NATO More than 1,031 aircraft

Flag of Sudan 90,000 regulars
Flag of Sudan Unknown number of Janjaweed militants
Flag of Sudan 10,000 Sudanese police
Casualties and losses
Flag of the United States 1 F/A-18 shot down
3 F-16Cs shot down
30 UAVs shot down
Flag of the United Kingdom 1 Tornado GR4 shot down

Flag of Sudan 269-310 regular soldiers killed
Flag of Sudan 499 wounded soldiers
Flag of Sudan 12 aircraft shot down, a number destroyed on the ground
Flag of Sudan 83 armored vehicles and artillery pieces destroyed

Sudanese civilian casualties:
189–247 killed

The Bombing campaign of Sudan (code-named Operation Infinite Justice) was the League of Democracies' military operation against the Islamic Republic of Sudan that lasted from March 24 to June 5, 2006 and brought about the close of the Genocide in Darfur. It was the League of Democracies' first major combat operation.


A rebellion started in 2003 against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, with two local rebel groups - the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) - accusing the government of oppressing non-Arabs in favor of Arabs. The government was also accused of neglecting the Darfur region of Sudan. In response, the government mounted a campaign of aerial bombardment supporting ground attacks by an Arab militia, the Janjaweed. The government-supported Janjaweed were accused of committing major human rights violations, including mass killing, looting, and systematic rape of the non-Arab population of Darfur. They have frequently burned down whole villages, driving the surviving inhabitants to flee to refugee camps, mainly in Darfur and Chad; many of the camps in Darfur are surrounded by Janjaweed forces. By the summer of 2004, 50,000 to 80,000 people had been killed and at least a million had been driven from their homes, causing a major humanitarian crisis in the region.

On September 9, 2004 the War in Darfur was declared a "genocide" by U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, followed by U.S President John McCain. On 18 September 2004, the U.N Security Council passed Resolution 1564, which called for a Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to assess the Sudanese conflict. In January 2005, an International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, authorized by U.N Security Council Resolution 1564 of 2004, issued a report to the Secretary-General stating that "the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide." Nevertheless, the Commission cautioned that "The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region. International offenses such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

However, several other nations followed suit with condemnation of the atrocities in Darfur. The head of the U.N investigating team, the Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams, described the international response to the crisis as "pathetic". On February 5 the U.S was followed by the United Kingdom, a permanent member of the U.N Security Council, in declaring the atrocities as genocide, and on February 14, France followed suit. Russia and China, the two remaining permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, did not follow suit.

The United States Congress (House Concurrent Resolution 467), 22 June 2004, passed 422-0 in the House and by unanimous voice vote in the Senate, declaring state-sponsored genocide by the proxy militias known as Janjaweed. Therefore, each member of the 108th United States Congress has technically declared that the situation in Darfur is a genocide. All but three members of the 109th United States Congress voted in favor of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, a law signed by President McCain on 2005 that restated the findings of genocide.

Since 2004, United States, Britain and the European Union have repeatedly condemned the atrocities but have failed to carry out any of their numerous threats. However, none of the resolutions passed by the Security Council regarding Darfur have been implemented, due to the Russian and Chinese voting against the resolutions.

Tired of the problems of the United Nations resulting mostly by the power Russia and China has within the organisation, President McCain urged the other democracies of the world to join together to put pressure on the Sudanese government.

In his state of the union announced in his State of the Union speech on January 20, 2005 that he would work with other democracies around the world to help officially create the Concert of Democracies. The Concert of Democracies was created by the signing of the Treaty of Geneva on March 30. Its purpose would be to strengthen security cooperation among the world’s liberal democracies and to provide a framework in which they can work together to effectively tackle common challenges - ideally within existing regional and global institutions, but if those institutions fail, then independently, functioning as a focal point for efforts to strengthen liberty under law around the world. It would serve as the institutional embodiment and ratification of the “democratic peace”.

While Russia and China continued opposing resolutions in the U.N Security Council regarding Darfur, the United States, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe (predominantly members of either NATO or the European Union) became more irritated over the behaviour of the Russians and China and thus the failure of the United Nations in stopping the conflict. On September 30, 2005 the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act was signed into law by President McCain along with a companion executive order. The DPAA restated the United States government's position that the Darfur conflict constitutes genocide, asked the government to expand the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (AMIS) and give the force a stronger mandate, including more generous logistical support. It also directs the government to assist the International Criminal Court to bring justice to those guilty of war crimes in Darfur, Sudan. Also included was the option of an military intervention under the mandate of the League of Democracies if the United Nations should fail.

During the Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on December 5, 2005, all members of the NATO alliance agreed on an military intervention in Sudan under the mandate of the newly-created Concert of Democracies if the United Nation should fail in their effort of introducing a ceasefire in the Darfur conflict. The date for such an intervention was set to the end of March or beginning of April 2006.


The Concert of Democracies' objectives in the conflict in Darfur were set out in the statement issued at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Democratic Council held at the Headquarters of the League of Democracies on March 12, 2006 and were reaffirmed by Heads of State and Government in Washington on March 20, 2006:

  • a verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate end of violence and repression;
  • the withdrawal from Darfur of the military, police and paramilitary forces;
  • the stationing in Darfur of an international military presence;
  • the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organizations


Operation Infinite Justice relied almost exclusively on the use of a large-scale air campaign to destroy Sudanese civilian and minor military infrastructure from high altitudes. Ground units were not used, although their use was threatened near the end of the conflict. This approach was adopted to minimize the risk to the forces of the League of Democracies and attracted some public criticism due to its alleged ineffectiveness against mobile ground targets such as tanks and troop formations. Strategic targets such as bridges, hospitals and factories were also bombed, particularly in the later stages of the conflict. Long-range cruise missiles were used to hit a number of heavily defended targets such as strategic installations in Omdurman and Khartoum. Civilian installations such as power plants, even water processing plants and the state-owned broadcaster were also targeted.

The operation

President McCain Operation Infinite Justice 2

Sudanese anti-aircraft batteries fire upon U.S aircraft over Khartoum and Omdurman, on the night of March 25-26, 2006.

NATO's bombing campaign lasted from March 24 to June 15, 2006, involving up to 1000 aircraft operating mainly from bases in Kenya, Turkey, Greece and the aircraft carriers U.S.S Theodore Roosevelt and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower stationed in the Red Sea. At dusk, F/A-18F Super Hornets of the United States Air Force were the first planes to take off and bomb Khartoum. BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles were also extensively used, fired from ships and submarines. The United States was, inevitably, the dominant member of the coalition against Sudan, although many NATO members were involved, and all members of the Consort of Democracy were involved to some degree, either by participating directly or giving their support for the action. During the ten weeks of the conflict, NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat missions. In addition to air power, one battalion from the U.S Army's 82nd Airborne Division was deployed to help combat missions. The battalion secured AH-64 Apache attack helicopter refueling sites, and a small team forward deployed to the Darfur-Sudanese border to identify targets for Allied airstrikes.

The proclaimed goal of the NATO operation was summed up by a NATO spokesperson as "the Sudanese out, peacekeepers in, refugees back". That is, Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militants would have to leave Darfur and be replaced by international peacekeepers of the United Nations and the African Union to ensure the refugees from Darfur could return to their homes. The campaign drew many similarities with the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in 1999, and the conflict was like it termed to be a "humanitarian bombing" and a "humanitarian war" by the politicians.

The campaign was initially designed to destroy Sudanese air defences and high-value military targets. NATO had learned from their mistakes of the 1999 bombing campaign, where they seriously underestimated Milošević's will to resist. Thus, Brussels expected that al-Bashir would resist for a similar time period as with Yugoslavia, perhaps even longer. The bombing was more serious than the bombing of Serbia, but not as much as the concentrated bombardments seen in Baghdad in 1991 and 2003. On the ground, over 200,000 civilians still in Darfur had fled into neighboring Chad, with many thousands already living in exile in Chad.

NATO military operations switched increasingly to attacking Sudanese units on the ground — hitting targets as small as individual tanks and artillery pieces — as well as continuing with the strategic bombardment. So-called "dual-use" targets, of use to both civilians and the military, were attacked: factories (such as the factories of Military Industry Corporation), power stations, telecommunications facilities, the headquarters of the National Congress, the governing political party led by President al-Bashir, and the TV towers in Omdurman and al Jazeera. Some saw these actions as violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions in particular. NATO however argued these facilities were potentially useful to the Sudanese military, similar to the situation in 1999, and their bombing was therefore justified. The alliance also stated it tried very hard to avoid civilian casualties during its bombing campaign.

President McCain Operation Infinite Justice Air Attack

A video recording of a U.S airstrike on a Sudanese military compound released by the U.S Department of Defense on April 5, 2006.

On May 7, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Khartoum, killing seven Chinese journalists. NATO claimed they were firing at Sudanese positions. The United States and NATO later apologized for the bombing, saying it occurred because of outdated sources, but this was challenged by a joint report from The Observer (UK) and Politiken (Denmark) newspapers which claimed NATO intentionally bombed the embassy because it was being used as a relay station for Sudanese army radio signals. The bombing strained relations between China and NATO countries and provoked angry demonstrations outside Western embassies in Beijing.

By the start of April, the conflict seemed little closer to a resolution, and members of the League of Democracies began to think seriously about an invasion of Sudan with ground units. This would have to be organised very quickly, as there was little time. U.S President John McCain was reluctant to commit U.S forces for a ground offensive without having resolved the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, Finnish, Chinese and Russian negotiators continued to try to persuade al-Bashir to back down. He finally recognised that NATO was serious in its resolve to end the conflict one way or another and that China would not intervene to defend Sudan despite Beijing's strong anti-NATO rhetoric. Faced with little alternative, al-Bashir accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish-Russian-Chinese mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Darfur headed by the U.N, but incorporating troops of the Concert of Democracies.

On 5 June, after al-Bashir accepted the conditions, United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) began entering Darfur. Initially UNAMID was composed of mainly U.S forces preparing to conduct combat operations, but its mission was limited to peacekeeping, and following the end of combat operation consisted of mostly African troops. The force was commanded by Rodolphe Adada and consisted of troops of Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States. The U.S contribution, the Initial Entry Force consisted of forces from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from; the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment.

Air war

President McCain Operation Infinite Justice 1

A destroyed MiG-29 fighter jet of the Sudanese Air Force at the Air Force base at Khartoum.

An important portion of the war involved combat between the Sudanese Air Force and the opposing air forces. United States Air Force F-16s and F/A-18Fs flying mainly from the aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt and U.S.S Dwight D. Eisenhower attacked the defending Sudanese fighters, mainly MiG-29s and F-7Bs, which were in bad shape, due to lack of spare parts and maintenance. Other NATO forces also contributed to the air war.

Dogfights/incidents of the conflict:

  • On March 24, Sudanese F-7B pilot Jamil Saleem took off from Khartoum Air Force Base. He encountered 24 NATO fighter jets. The NATO fighters immediately reacted to his presence. The MiG-29 evaded two enemy missiles before an American F/A-18F shot him down. Saleem ejected at around 2000 meters altitude and survived. Two F-7Bs were shot down in the encounter by U.S fighters, and one was shot down by a Norwegian F-16.
  • On March 26, two Sudanese MiG-29s and four F-7B took off from Khartoum to chase a lone NATO aircraft flying in direction of the Red Sea. They crossed the border and were ambushed by a group of three US F-16s. Both MiGs were shot down by Captain Thomas Anderson, while two F-7Bs were shot down by Major John Bratton. One MiG pilot, Major Faeq al-Drubi evaded at least one missile before being hit. He ejected but was killed from the explosion of the aircraft. The other pilot, Captain Nazar al-Attar, did not eject and was killed.
  • On March 28, a MiG-29 piloted by Lt. Colonel Salim-Abdul Mohamed Shakel took off from Kassala. He encountered a U.S F-16 fighter jet and managed to shot it down. The pilot ejected at around 2,000 meters altitude and survived.
  • On April 4, the 3rd Battalion of the under the command of Colonel Muhamed Abdel al-Hussein, equipped with the Isayev S-125 'Neva-M' (NATO designation SA-3 Goa), downed an American F-16. While the Sudanese military sources, including Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, claimed they had shot down a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, General and other NATO generals denied this. The remains of the pilot was handed over to U.S authorities in July 2006.
  • In the afternoon on April 7, three Sudanese MiG-29s and a further three F-7Bs took off from Khartoum to intercept a force of 3 B-2 Spirits. However, as they approached the B-2s, the Sudanese aircraft were by a group of three U.S F/A-18F. In the largest air-to-air battle of the war, two MiGs and all three F-7Bs were shot down, while the last MiG escaped, but crashed later due to an engine failure resulting from the engagement. One MiG pilot, lt. col. Faeq-Rahim Abdel Mohamed did not eject and was killed, while captain Jamil Hussein managed to eject and met with Sudanese soldiers north of Omdurman.

Forces employed by the COD


The main element of the operation was the air forces of NATO. The French Navy and Air Force operated the Super Etendard and the Mirage 2000. The Royal Air Force operated the Harrier GR7 and Tornado ground attack jets as well as an array of support aircraft. Belgian, Danish, Dutch and Norwegian Air Forces operated F-16s. The Canadian Air Force deployed F-18s, making Canadians responsible for 10% of all bombs dropped in the operation. The fighters were armed with both guided and unguided "dumb" munitions, including the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. The United States Air Force used deployed F-16s, F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, as well as AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.


As in all recent NATO operations, Operation Infinite Justice incorporated the use of satellites as a direct method of weapon guidance. The collective bombing used Joint Direct Attack Munition JDAM kit, which uses an inertial-guidance and GPS-guided tail fin to increase the accuracy of conventional gravity munitions up to 95%. The JDAM kits were outfitted on the B-2s.


NATO naval forces operated in the Adriatic Sea. The British Royal Navy sent a substantial task force that included the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, which operated Sea Harrier FA2 fighter jets. The RN also deployed destroyers and frigates, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) provided support vessels, including the aviation training/primary casualty receiving ship RFA Argus. It was the first time the RN used cruise missiles in combat, operated from the nuclear fleet submarine HMS Splendid. The United States Navy provided a naval task force that included the aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. The French Navy provided the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91) and escorts.


U.S ground forces comprised the Initial Entry Force to support UNAFIL, consisting of forces from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit; the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment. The unit was deployed in March 1999 on the Chad/Darfur border in support of the bombing campaign where they secured Apache helicopter refueling sites, established a forward-operating base to prepare for Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) strikes and offensive ground operations, and deployed a small team with a AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radar system to the Chad/Darfur border where it acquired targets for COD/NATO air strikes. Immediately after the bombing campaign, the troops were included in UNAMID, where their mission was limited to peacekeeping, and following the end of combat operation consisted of mostly African troops.

International response to the conflict

Protest in Khartoum 2006

An anti-U.S protest in Khartoum.

International response to the conflict were mixed. Most of the world condemned the Sudanese genocide in Darfur, but also criticized the U.S and NATO for intervening militarily, or did not support either of them. Some states condemned the COD's attacks exclusively, three of them expressed support for the Sudanese government's operations in Darfur. Bolivia, Iran, Syria, Libya, Mauritania, Venezuela, China and Russia significantly down scaled or severed their relations with the United States and other Western nation in protest of the offensive. Other states condemned Sudan exclusively, and the member states of NATO and COD in particular supported the air offensive in Sudan.

The conflict was marked by worldwide civilian demonstrations for and against both sides, with many protesters disagreeing with their governments' official position on the conflict.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on March 26, 2009 calling "for an immediate halt to all violence". The Arab League, the European Union and many nations made similar calls.

Country Response
Flag of NATO NATO NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that "the operation is not aimed against the people of Sudan, but against the oppressing Sudanese regime who is leading the genocide on the people in Darfur. The only purpose of this operation, I underline the only purpose, is to stop the Sudanese genocide in Darfur".
Small Logo of the COD (President McCain) COD COD Secretary General Sérgio Vieira de Mello stated that "due to the failure of the United Nation on the issue of the genocide in Darfur, the COD has been forced to take action instead."
Flag of the United Nations United Nations The U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his, and urged both parties to "immediate halt all violence". He criticized the COD and the U.S in particular for intervening without U.N support while criticizing Sudan, Russia and China for not following the resolutions enacted by the U.N.
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that he strongly supported the COD operation in Sudan, and stated that "the only purpose of this operation is to stop the Sudanese genocide in Darfur."
Flag of France France French President Jacques Chirac said that he supported the COD actions in Sudan, and criticized Russia and China as well as Sudan for creating this situation.
Flag of Germany Germany German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her government supported the COD operation in Sudan, and stated that "the only purpose of this operation is to stop the Sudanese genocide in Darfur."
Flag of Denmark Denmark Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a press conference that "he strongly supports the COD actions in Sudan, and the Danish government has agreed to participate in the operation." The decision to participate was almost unilateral in the Danish parliament, only opposed by some members of the Socialist People's Party and Radical Liberal Party.
Flag of Norway Norway Norwegian Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference that "in order to prevent further , the Norwegian government will support the COD's operation in Sudan". This was supported by the majority of the Labour Party as well as the opposition parties the Liberal, the Conservative and the Progress Party, while the government coalition member Socialist Left Party were outraged by the U.S actions.
Flag of Israel Israel Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the COD decision to strike targets in Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur.
Flag of Iraq Iraq Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated that the genocide in Darfur had to be stopped, but criticized the U.S and the COD for not carrying out negotiations to the end.
Flag of Libya (1977–2011) Libya Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi expressed his country's support for Sudan's efforts "in the fight against this aggression," and led an anti-U.S rally in Tripoli.
Flag of Sudan Sudan Thousands of anti-U.S protesters took to the streets of Khartoum. The Sudanese minister of information Zahawi Ibrahim Malek harshly condemned the attack on Khartoum and denounced McCain as a "war-mongering infidel, insane due to his imprisonment in Vietnam, on an crusade against Islam". President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir led an anti-U.S rally and warned that his country "reserves the right to respond to the American attack using all necessary measures."
Flag of Russia Russia Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the U.S action as "dishonorable" and said "Washington should have carried out negotiations to the end". He also criticized the COD for ignoring the U.N and for carrying out the operation, which only fueled anti-Western hatred in the Muslim World along with the Muhammad caricatures.
Flag of the People's Republic of China China Chinese President Hu Jianto condemned the U.S for violating a nation's sovereign territory, and carrying out armed conflict with another nation. He also criticized the United States and NATO for going against the back of the United Nations, and carry out military operations against Sudan.


Civilian casualties

Human Rights Watch reported between 189 and 247 civilians were killed in the ninety separate incidents in Operation Infinite Justice. Almost two thirds (126 to 164) of the total registered civilian deaths occurred in 12 incidents where ten or more civilian deaths were confirmed. Around two thirds of the incidents resulted from attacks on civilian residential areas in which Jenjaweed militiamen and Sudanese army units had taken up positions.

Military casualties

Military casualties on the NATO side were limited. According to official reports, the alliance suffered one fatality from combat operations. After the war, the alliance reported the loss of one F/A-18, three F-16s, 30 Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), all of them American, and one British Tornado GR4. These losses include only those shot down by enemy; most of the other losses were from accidents in the 38,004 sorties flown. The Sudanese armed forces claimed to have shot down seven helicopters, 30 UAVs, 61 planes and 238 cruise missiles. However, these figures were not verified independently.

While the Sudanese military suffered relatively heavy from Operation Infinite Justice, the operation inflicted less damage on the Sudanese military than originally thought due to the use of camouflage, which concealed vehicles and war techniques, and numerous easy-made decoys. Other misdirection techniques were used to disguise military targets. 269-310 regular soldiers were killed and 499 wounded, while 83 armored vehicles and artillery pieces destroyed. 12 aircraft had also been shot down, as well as a number of aircraft destroyed on the ground.

See also

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