Report Russia Paid Taliban Bounties For Killing U.S. Troops Ignites Furor In Washington

Amid a Democratic and media furor over reports alleging U.S. President Donald Trump was aware of intelligence showing Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton accused Democrats of “curl[ing] up in the fetal position” whenever Trump becomes “hawkish” on Russia. Appearing on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” on July 2, also noted that the administration had corrected the initial New York Times report, saying there was “no definitive intelligence” presented to Trump and that “strong dissent within the intelligence community” over the report remained. Reported by Fox News. Read more… In a series of tweets shortly after the story broke, President Trump denied anyone had told him about the reports, and further stated that U.S. intelligence officials had just informed him that there was no credible information suggesting Russian intelligence agencies had offered to pay bounties to the Taliban. Reported by NBC News. Read more… Russia also quickly disavowed the bounties when the report first broke. In a series of Twitter posts, the Russian embassy in the U.S. characterized the report as fake news. Reported by the BBC. Read more… And a June 30 report in Time states that while U.S. and allied military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan collected the information regarding the bounties, senior officials were divided on how much credence to give the raw intelligence. Reported by Time. Read more…House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she was not briefed about the bounties but should have been. She also criticized the president for not reading his daily intelligence briefings. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

On July 10 former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested that the media overreacted to recent reports about the alleged bounties. “What I know is that our military commanders on the ground did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting and television was reporting,” Powell told ABC News. Cautioning that U.S. commanders would have to analyze and verify the reports and identify the actors before taking action, he said that media coverage became “almost hysterical in the first few days.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Sen. Cotton agrees with Colin Powell that the media and Democrats overreacted to the reports. Cotton says he agrees with Powell that U.S. military commanders did not think it was as serious a problem as the media was reporting. “Our senior commander on the ground in the Middle East, he doesn’t think these reports were corroborated and he is not aware of any deaths that are attributable to these reports,” Cotton told “America’s Newsroom” on Fox News. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The top U.S. general in the Middle East has said he was aware of intelligence regarding the bounties and that while he found it “worrisome” he did not believe it was linked to any actual military deaths. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie of U.S. Central Command said, “I found it very worrisome, I just didn’t find that there was a causative link there.” He also explained, “The intel case wasn’t proved to me — it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law — and you know that’s often true in battlefield intelligence.” Reported by ABC News. Read more… Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense, spoke July 8 about the reports, denying he had ever been specifically briefed on the charge Russia was paying the Taliban bounties for targeting U.S. troops. Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, Esper also said that “It is the opinion of a number of intelligence entities, agencies, that could not corroborate the report.” Reported by Military Times. Read more…