News

National Security & Defense

State Department: 100+ ISIS Prisoners Missing after Turkish Invasion of Syria

A Turkish solider in the town of Tal Abyad, Syria, October 23, 2019 (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

The State Department confirmed Wednesday that more than 100 ISIS prisoners have escaped since Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria following the Trump administration’s withdrawal of about 1,000 U.S. troops from the region.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, the chief diplomat in charge of combating the Islamic State, said in testimony to Congress that the U.S. currently does not know the whereabouts of the escaped terrorists, who had been held in prisons run by the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces.

“We would say that the number is now over 100,” Jeffrey said in response to a question from House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel. “We do not know where they are.”

“Almost all of the prisons that the SDF were guarding are still secured,” Jeffrey added. “The SDF still has people there. We are monitoring that as best we can. We still have forces in Syria working with the SDF, and one of the top priorities is these prisons.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave a similar estimate of the number of escaped ISIS prisoners on Tuesday, but said the “big prison break” officials expected has not occurred.

“Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were in prisons in northeast Syria, we’ve only had reports of a little bit more than a hundred that have escaped,” Esper told CNN.

President Trump earlier this month ordered the withdrawal of about 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in northern Syria, saying he does not want the U.S. to “police” the area any longer. Republican and Democratic critics of the move warned that a U.S. troop withdrawal would make room for the Turkish invasion of the region, which proved true, and would leave Kurdish forces, who have been supported by U.S troops in fighting the Islamic State, open to attack.

Trump announced earlier Wednesday that a “permanent ceasefire” has been agreed to between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria and that Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria have ceased. He added that the captured Islamic State prisoners are “secured.”

“There were a few that got out, a small number, relatively speaking, and they’ve been largely recaptured,” Trump said of the escaped Islamic State prisoners.

Most Popular

Elections

What Do Republican Voters Want?

The latest entry in the post-Trump conservatism sweepstakes was Marco Rubio’s speech at the Catholic University of America in early November. The Florida senator made the case for a “common-good capitalism” that looks on markets in the light of Catholic social thought. “We must remember that our nation ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Woes and DACA Throes

This excerpt is from episode 176 of The Editors. Charlie: Yesterday was the day on which the rain stopped and the sun hid behind the clouds and the eyes of the nation turned in unison toward Capitol Hill for the first day of public hearings in the impeachment of Donald Trump. The results of that first day were ... Read More
Books

The Houellebecqian Moment

We are living in the imagination of Michel Houellebecq. The bête noire of French literature has spent decades deploring the erosion of Western mores that he believes resulted from the sexual revolution of the 1960s. His last novel, Submission, revolved around the election of a theocratic Muslim to the French ... Read More
Culture

‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More
World

Corbyn, Trump, and Power

Britain’s general election campaign trundles along, with the Conservatives still comfortably ahead in the polls, although I continue to think that the Tories are far more vulnerable than is generally understood -- and, of course, as was entirely predictable (and indeed was predicted), the contest is turning out ... Read More