Senators Collins, Warner Express Concerns About Escape of ISIS Detainees in Syria

The Senators requested an unclassified assessment on threats to U.S. national security resulting from escaped ISIS prisoners

Washington, D.C. — Following reports of ISIS terrorists in Syria escaping from detention facilities run by America’s Kurdish partners in the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) requested additional information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 


In their letter to Acting Director of National Intelligence Admiral Joseph Maguire, Senators Collins and Warner requested that he produce an unclassified assessment with a classified annex regarding how the escape of ISIS detainees in Syria could impact the security of the United States and our allies following the pullback of U.S. troops and subsequent incursion by Turkey.  Senator Collins is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senator Warner is the Vice Chairman of the Committee.


The Senators wrote, “The SDF has been holding more than 10,000 captured ISIS fighters, including 2,000 so-called ‘foreign fighters,’ committed jihadists who traveled from Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, to join ISIS. Many of these individuals are hard-core terrorists, with the kinds of expertise – bomb-making, leadership and propaganda – that had made ISIS such a threat to the United States and our allies. As the Kurds understandably shift their focus to defending themselves, their ability to securely detain these ISIS fighters will become increasingly uncertain. Already, press reports have indicated that senior U.S. officials say they have ‘no real idea’ how many fighters may have already escaped, and how many more are likely to do so.”


“If the past is any indication, it was escaped al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) prisoners that formed the core of what became known as ISIS, contributing to the group’s eventual takeover of Mosul and much of northern Iraq.  The subsequent influx of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria increased the terrorist threat to the United States and Europe.  If left unchecked, the escape of ISIS detainees in Syria could lead to similar counterterrorism setbacks,” continued the Senators. “Therefore, please provide to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence an assessment of the impact the escape of ISIS detainees in SDF custody could have on the security of United States and our allies, including the detainees who have escaped and those still residing in SDF custody.  In order to better inform the American public, the Congress, policymakers and America’s allies, this assessment should be unclassified to the extent possible, with a classified annex if needed.”


The Senators asked that ODNI provide a response to the request within two weeks, by November 19, 2019.


A signed copy of the letter is available here.