By Zeke Miller

Th Associated Press

Militia: Suspected American ISIS member caught on Syrian battlefield

A 34-year-old man from Houston who is said to have sent a résumé and cover letter seeking a job with the Islamic State group has been seized on a battlefield in Syria, a U.S.-backed militia fighting the militants said Sunday.

“Dear Director, I am looking to get a position teaching English to students in the Islamic State,” the Texan, Warren Christopher Clark, is said to have written in a letter found in an Iraqi house once occupied by the militants.

A University of Houston graduate, Clark moved to Saudi Arabia to teach English and then taught English for three months in Turkey, according to documents recovered in a house in Mosul, Iraq.

His father, Warren Clark, 69, described his son as “a humanitarian” and rejected any suggestion that he would throw in his lot with a group like the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS. “My son would not be involved in anything along those lines,” he said.

The militia that announced Clark’s capture, the Syrian Democratic Forces, said he had been seized along with a man they described as another American, Zaid Abed al-Hamid.

Only four other Americans are known to have been captured on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, according to a database maintained by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

If Clark and al-Hamid, whose surname was also spelled al-Hamed, are extradited to the United States, they would be only the 15th and 16th American adults to return from joining the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

“The number is minuscule,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the program at George Washington. “To put it in context, the Brits are talking about hundreds of returnees.”

Little is known about the American said to be captured alongside Clark, beyond his age, 35. The Syrian Democratic Forces did not say what state he is from, describing him only as “originally from the United States.”

There were indications, however, that al-Hamid might not really be American.

His name appears in a database of 130 Trinidadians who joined the Islamic State that is maintained by Simon Cottee, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent who tracks the group. Cottee is working on a book about Islamic State group fighters from the Caribbean nation.

— New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Sunday the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.

Bolton, who traveled to Israel to reassure the U.S. ally of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, said there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insisted it’s not an unlimited commitment.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Those “conditions,” he said, included the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protections for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group.

Bolton’s comments mark the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed.

Trump has faced widespread criticism from allies and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a policy that was to have been conducted within weeks.

Trump announced in mid-December that the U.S. will withdraw all of its 2,000 forces in Syria. Trump’s move has raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria who fought alongside American troops against IS extremists. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

Bolton, who is to travel on to Turkey on Monday, said the U.S. is insisting that its Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State group are protected from any planned Turkish offensive. He is to deliver a warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton said. He said in meetings with Turkish counterparts, he will seek “to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain.”

Trump has stated he would not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds, Bolton said.

Bolton said the U.S. has asked its Kurdish allies to “stand fast now” and refrain from seeking protection from Russia or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. “I think they know who their friends are,” he added, speaking of the Kurds.

He said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. ­Joseph Dunford would continue negotiations with his Turkish counterparts this week to seek protection for America’s Kurdish allies in Syria.

Additionally, Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, who has been serving since August as the special representative for Syrian engagement and was named last week as the American special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, is to travel to Syria this week in an effort to reassure the U.S.’s Kurdish allies that they are not being abandoned, Bolton said.

Bolton said U.S. troops would remain at the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it’s justified by the president’s constitutional authority, adding “I’m a strong believer in Article II.”

The U.S. is also seeking a “satisfactory disposition” for roughly 800 Islamic State prisoners held by the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition, Bolton said, adding talks were ongoing with European and regional partners about the issue.

Bolton had dinner with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Sunday evening to discuss the pace of the U.S. drawdown, American troop levels in the region and the U.S. commitment to push back on Iranian regional expansionism. Bolton was expected to explain that some U.S. troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that the al-Tanf base would remain.

Bolton also was to convey the message that the United States is “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton’s plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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