Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Marine Veteran Austin Tice Is Still Alive After Years Of Captivity, US Official Says
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than six years after Austin Tice was taken hostage in Syria, the U.S. government is confident that the Marine veteran and journalist is still alive, the State Department’s special envoy for hostage affairs said on Tuesday.
“I want to make it very clear that the United States government believes that Austin Tice is alive,” Robert O’Brien said at the National Press Club. “We’re deeply concerned about his well-being after six years of captivity."
Tice went missing near Damascus in August 2012 while reporting for McClatchy and the Washington Post. Six weeks later, a 46-second cell phone video was released showing Tice blindfolded and surrounded by armed men shouting, "Allahu Akbar.”
After briefly speaking in Arabic, Tice said: “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus.”
O’Brien declined to say on Tuesday if the U.S. government has received evidence that Tice is still alive since 2012. Nor would he say which group is believed to be holding Tice.
“Austin is a strong, fit young man,” O’Brien said. “We have every reason to believe that he is alive. Beyond that, I can’t say anything further on that front. We believe that he is being held captive in Syria. I don’t want to get into anything further on that.”
Top U.S. officials including White House National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have met with Tice’s parents Marc and Debra to keep them updated on the situation, O’Brein said.
“I can tell you the president is aware and is briefed regularly on Austin’s case and he wants Austin Tice back with his friends and family as soon as possible,” O’Brien said.
Photo of Marine veteran and journalist Austin Tice, who went missing while reporting in Syria in 2012.Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
O’Brien noted that the Marine Corps birthday was Nov. 10, and although Tice left the Corps to become a journalist, he still has the toughness of a Marine.
“I’m sure that is sustaining him through these incredibly trying circumstances,” O’Brien said. “The Marine Corps … is ‘Semper Fidelis:’ Always Faithful. I want Austin and his parents to know that we’re going keeping the faith with you, and we’re going to continue to pray but we’re also going to continue to work as hard as we can until Austin is back in the United States and back together with his family and friends.”
In April, the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information leading to Tice’s safe return. Now the National Press Club plans to raise money to increase the award amount, in case it is helpful.
Participating restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area will hold a May 2 fundraising effort called “Night Out For Austin Tice,” said Andrea Edney, a Bloomberg News editor who is also National Press Club president. Fifty percent of the restaurant revenue will go toward matching the FBI’s reward and the rest will cover costs associated with the event, such as food.
“The funds that are submitted by our restaurant partners are going to go to the National Press Club Journalism Institute, our non-profit affiliate,” Edney said on Tuesday. “That’s going to be held there pending direction from the FBI, which is directing the reward program. We’re not going to do anything with the funds until we hear from the FBI.”
If Tice is safely returned without a reward being paid, the National Press Club will talk to his parents about donating the funds raised to charities, she said.
Marc Tice said he and his wife have no doubt that there son will eventually return home safe.
“It’s the consensus that Austin is alive,” Marc Tice told Task & Purpose. “You heard it several times in today’s event, there’s no question that he’s alive and reasonably well, although more than six years in captivity is – I can’t even imagine; I don’t want to imagine."
“So, there’s absolutely no reason to believe anything else. We have complete confidence and faith that he’s going to come home. That’s what we’re preparing for. As much as we’re working to bring him home, we spend a lot of time preparing for and thinking about what we need to do when he gets back to get him back on his feet and get his life going again.”
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning that it's "absolutely a given" that ISIS will come back if the U.S. doesn't keep up pressure on the group, just one week after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from northern Syria.
"It's in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks, and we'll have to see if they're able to maintain the fight against ISIS," Mattis said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," set to air on Sunday. "It's going to have an impact. The question is how much?"