US officials standing in the way of bringing captive Marine Austin Tice home, family says

Abbie Bennett
January 27, 2020 - 11:32 am
AustinTice

Courtesy of the Tice family.

Austin Tice, a Marine and journalist, has been held captive in Syria for seven years and 165 days. He turned 38 last August. 

On Monday, his mother, Debra Tice, provided an update to reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"Austin is waiting. We are ready," she said. "The time is now."

Austin has been held longer than any other journalist and is the only one being held overseas.

Debra spent 83 days in Syria searching for her son, who was captured and detained while covering the civil war there. In March 2014, Debra said the family was told that the Syrian government was unwilling to meet with her, but they would meet with U.S. officials.

'Ask about Austin': Marine, journalist Austin Tice still a captive after 7 years

"I was given a message from a highly placed Syrian official. This is a quote: 'I will not meet with the mother. Send a United States government official of appropriate title,'" Debra said. "Since that day in March 2014, almost six years ago, when Marc I and shared that message with the United States government, it is the only thing we have been asking on Austin's behalf -- a meeting, direct engagement with those best positioned to secure Austin's safe release." 

But the U.S. government has not met that request, and Debra said the family doesn't understand why. 

"Almost six years ago, the Syrian government opened the door for a discussion," Debra said. "We believe this is quite possibly the simplest request that could be made in Austin's situation." 

The family has continually made that request "through all the proper channels of two administrations."

The Obama administration "was unsuccessful," though Debra said she felt they got "very close." She says "things are very different" with the current administration.

"President Trump is committed to bringing Americans home ... We know that commitment extends to our son. The president has directed his team to make it happen. We know with certainty there are those in his administration who are working to make this essential meeting happen," she said."The president has the will. He's called for action for Austin." 

But someone is standing in the way of progress for Austin's return, Debra added.

"Apparently, somewhere in the chain, there is a senior U.S. government official who is hesitating or stalling," she said. "There is no possible way for me to understand why anyone would defy the president's will and choose to leave our beloved son, who put his life on the line serving this country three tours as a Marine Corps officer, waiting in captivity instead of taking the necessary steps to get this critical discussion underway."

Debra said she can't be certain which U.S. officials have blocked negotiations.

"Whoever you are, stand down or stand up for Austin," she said. 

Congress urges Trump to bring Marine, journalist Austin Tice home after 7 years captive in Syria

Debra said she believes the conversation could happen "very soon," mentioning that Trump is set to deliver a State of the Union address next week.

"It would be great good news for the president to be able to announce the safe release of Austin Tice," she said. "I am reasonably hopeful that this can happen." 

The Tice family has been barred from entering the country by the Syrian government, unable to search for their son themselves, so in addition to appeals to U.S. leaders, Debra also appealed to Austin's colleagues in the media.

"Your work makes a difference for Austin," she said. "Ask about him. Keep at it. Be relentless."

This year, the National Press Club and the Tice family announced plans for the second-annual Night Out for Austin Tice campaign. 

Since April 2018, the FBI has offered a $1 million reward for any information leading to Austin's safe return. The Night Out campaign in 2019 included events at 80 restaurants in 13 states and the District of Columbia to raise awareness.

The 2020 campaign is set for Wednesday, April 29 and aims to include events in all 50 states. Three of Austin's siblings will co-chair the campaign. 

"We hope this year it will be a homecoming celebration," Debra said. 

The family has yet to receive a credible claim of responsibility for Austin’s detainment, but say they know he’s not held by any opposition forces or terrorist groups.

“The most important thing that we know is he is alive,” Marc Tice told Connecting Vets previously. “He is, as best the information we have can tell us, is being taken care of. There’s every reason to keep working as hard as we can and our government can and others who are helping us to get him home.

"It’s most likely, highly likely, someone affiliated with, or in support of, the Syrian government." 

If you have any information about Austin Tice's detainment, contact the family at www.austinticefamily.com. A $1 million reward is offered by the FBI, with a matching reward from a coalition of media organizations. 

Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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AustinTice
Courtesy of the Tice family.