A top White House official recently traveled to Damascus for secret talks with the Assad regime, marking the first time such a high-level U.S. official has met in Syria with the isolated government in more than a decade, according to Trump administration officials and others familiar with the negotiations.
Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official, went to Damascus earlier this year in an effort to secure release of at least two Americans believed to be held by President Bashar al-Assad, the officials said. Officials familiar with the trip declined to say who Patel met with during his trip.
The last known talks between White House and Syrian officials in Damascus took place in 2010. The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012 to protest Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his regime.
U.S. officials are hoping a deal with Assad would lead to freedom for Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine officer who disappeared while reporting in Syria in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared after being stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in 2017. At least four other Americans are believed to be held by the Syrian government, but little is known about those cases.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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