U.S. Citizen Fighting With ISIS Is Picked Up in Syria, But U.S. Gov't Doesn't Know Much About It

By Susan Jones | September 15, 2017 | 5:58am EDT
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert briefs reporters on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. (Photo: Screen grab from State Department video)

(CNSNews.com) - Press reports say an American citizen has been picked up in Syria where he was fighting alongside ISIS, but the U.S. government apparently doesn't know, or won't say, much about it.

On Thursday morning, reporters at the Pentagon asked an American military spokesman to tell them about the U.S. citizen who was either captured by or surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting ISIS in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria.

"We have seen those same reports," Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition, told reporters, live from Baghdad. Ryan said the SDF turns over any foreign fighters it captures to the "proper authorities."

He referred reporters to the U.S. State Department to get "updates on that particular person."

A few hours later at the State Department, reporters didn't get much satisfaction when they asked for information about the American who had joined ISIS in Syria.

A reporter asked where he is now and whether the Red Cross has seen him:

"So I don't have a lot for you," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert responded. "I can tell you that we're aware of that report, that a U.S. citizen was detained. Beyond that, I just don't have any -- any specifics on that. Let me -- let me check to see if I have anything additional, but I don't.

“This is early on," Nauert continued. "We just learned about this issue a couple hours ago, to my awareness, at least. And I believe that that is all we have."

"Well, it seems that he surrendered to Kurdish elements of the SDF in Syria," the reporter told Nauert.

"Look, we don't have a lot of information on that. That is what is being reported. That is what somebody said. I just can't -- I can't confirm that," Nauert said.

The reporter said the U.S. Defense Department had directed her to the U.S. Justice Department and the government of Iraq for more information. The reporter asked Nauert, "Just from your post at the State Department, do you have any sense of why the government of Iraq could be involved in this issue with a U.S. citizen fighting with ISIS in Syria?"

"I mean, I don't know," Nauert said. "I -- I don't know. Look, perhaps the government of Iraq -- I mean, this is a hypothetical, in a -- in a sense, and that perhaps the government of Iraq has him. I -- I don't know. I don't know where this man is. I can only tell you that we are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was -- was fighting for some sort of a terror group. Whether it was ISIS or not, I -- I do not know.

"It serves as a good reminder that in a nation of 330-some million people, some people will be dumb enough to go to Iraq and Syria to try to fight for ISIS. We encourage people not to do that. As the U.S. government, we say, "Don't go do that." I mean, you can't be very bright, if you're going to go over there and do that. Beyond that, I just have no information. OK."

Nauert also suggested that the Defense Department "stop referring questions to the State Department when we don't have any information."

Later in the day, the Washington Post published a statement from the Defense Department, saying:

“Syrian Democratic Forces turned over an American citizen who surrendered to SDF on or around Sept. 12 to U.S. forces. The U.S. citizen is being legally detained by Department of Defense personnel as a known enemy combatant. We refer further questions on this matter to the Department of Justice.”

But according to the Post, "The Justice Department did not respond to requests for information."

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