Kash Patel, the Trump administration’s top counterterrorism official, traveled to Syria earlier this year, marking the first time in over a decade that a high-level U.S. official has met with the Syrian government, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Obama administration severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012. Patel, a member of the National Security Council and former Devin Nunes aide, went to Damascus hoping to secure the release of at least two U.S. nationals believed to be held by Assad’s government, including freelance journalist Austin Tice and Syrian-American therapist Majd Kamalmaz. Officials declined to tell the Journal whom Patel met with but did confirm that negotiations had not gotten far. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly demanded the U.S. withdraw its military presence. The United States keeps several hundred members of its armed forces in Syria’s northeastern oil fields.
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