President Donald Trump has denied being aware of US intellectuals’ conclusions that Russia secretly offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for killing US troops in Afghanistan. The Trump administration was set to inform elected members of Congress about the case on Monday.
The intelligence evaluations came in the midst of Trump’s drive to withdraw the United States from Afghanistan and suggested that Russia make overtures to militants as the United States and the Taliban hold talks to end the protracted war.
The assessment was first reported by The New York Times and then confirmed to The Associated Press by US intelligence officials and two others with knowledge of the matter.
There were conflicting reports about whether Trump was aware of Russia’s actions. The intelligence officials told the AP that the president was informed about the case earlier this year; Trump denied it and tweeted on Sunday that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence had been informed.
The president tweeted Sunday night that he only heard that intelligence officials did not report the information to him because they did not think it was credible.
The intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter insisted on anonymity to discuss the very sensitive matter.
The White House National Security Council would not confirm the estimates, but said the US receives thousands of intelligence reports daily that are subject to rigorous scrutiny.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., who golfed with Trump on Sunday, tweeted a day earlier that “it is imperative that Congress bottom of the latest media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban for to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region. “
Intel just reported to me that they did not think this information was credible and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Maybe another manufactured Russia hoax, maybe by Fake News @nytimesbooks, want to make Republicans look bad !!! https://t.co/cowOmP7T1S
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Republican No. 3 in the House, urged the White House to share more information with Congress, saying if it’s true, lawmakers must know “Who knew and when?” and with reference to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, “What has been done to protect our forces and hold Putin accountable?”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said reports that Trump was aware the Russian masses would be a “truly shocking revelation” about the commander-in-chief and his failure to protect US troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Russia.
Russia calls the report “nonsense”
“This unsophisticated facility clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists for American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more credible must make up this nonsense,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
A spokesman spokesman said the militants “strongly reject this accusation” and are not “blamed for any intelligence agency or foreign country.”
John Bolton, a former national security adviser who was forced out by Trump last September and has now written an all-book about his time at the White House, said on Sunday that “it’s pretty remarkable that the president goes out of his way to say he has heard nothing about it. One asks, why would he do something similar? “
Bolton told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes the answer “may be just because active Russian aggression like the one against the US service members is a very, very serious issue and nothing has been done about it, if it is true, for the last four or five months, so it may look like he was negligent. But of course he can deny everything if no one ever told him about it. “
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the few congressional leaders who was informed of sensitive intelligence matters, told ABC’s “This Week” that she had not been informed of the reported rewards and requested a report to Congress on the matter.
“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians at this point, denies that he was informed. Whether he is or not, his administration knows and our allies – some of our allies working with us in Afghanistan had been informed and accept this report, “she said.
While Russian involvement in Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon for experienced US intelligence and military commanders, officials said Russian operators became more aggressive in their desire to enter into agreements with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and it was named a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.
Russian operatives are said to have met Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar and Afghanistan. However, it is not known if the meetings discussed bounties.
Insider attacks investigated
Officials with the AP said the intelligence community investigated an attack in April 2019 against a US convoy that killed three US marines after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicle as they returned to Bagram Airfield, the largest US military installation in Afghanistan. . Three other US service members were injured in the attack, along with an Afghan entrepreneur. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack on Twitter.
The officials with whom AP spoke also said they looked closely at insider attacks – sometimes called “green-on-blue” incidents – from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.
In early 2020, members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, rescued a Taliban outpost and received about $ 500,000. The recovered funds further reinforced suspicions from the US intelligence environment that the Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and other linked associations.
An official said the administration discussed several possible answers, but the White House has not yet approved any steps.
Trump responded to Biden on Twitter, saying “Russia for his and Obama’s lunch during his time in office”
But it was the Obama administration, along with international allies, who cut off Russia from the group of eight following its unilateral annexation of Crimea from Ukraine – a move that drew widespread condemnation.
Biden criticized Trump for “his embarrassing campaign for claiming and destroying himself” before Putin. Trump tweeted that “no one has been tougher” against Russia than his administration.