Not Briefed: Trump Scoffs at Report on Russian Bounty on US Troops

Trump said he was not briefed as intelligence officers had not found the inputs credible. 

Published29 Jun 2020, 07:07 AM IST
World
3 min read

President of the United States Donald Trump on Sunday, 28 June, said on Twitter that neither him, nor Vice President Mike Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were briefed about the alleged intelligence that a Russian Spy unit had secretly offered money to Taliban-linked outfits to kill US troops in Afghanistan.

In his tweet, Trump alleged that the news had appeared in a source based-report published by The New York Times.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IT ALL

The Russian angle involving the Taliban, as reported by many is likely to escalate tensions between the the US and Russia, as it would also be the first such evidence of direct involvement of Russia in the killings of US troops in Afghanistan.

  • In a statement on Saturday, 27 June, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House Press Secretary denied the NYT report, claiming that Trump and Pence had been briefed on the matter. She, however, added that her statement "does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence."
  • US President Trump had tweeted about the report, claiming that it had been denied by everyone and that there have not been many attacks on the US.
  • 22 US service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.

THE BACKDROP

The New York Times first reported that US President Trump was briefed and the matter was discussed by the White House’s National Security Council during an inter-agency meeting in late March.

According to the report, the the US had concluded months back that the “Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.”

This report was then confirmed by the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and CNN.

  • NYT reported that US President Trump had floated the idea of postponing the upcoming G7 Summit in the US to September.
  • The UK and Canada opposed the plan to include Russia in the G7 Summit, after Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about it in May.
  • An invitation to Russia for the annual summit was withdrawn in 2014, following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

PRESIDENT’S TWEETS

President Trump replied to a tweet by US Senator Lindsey Graham, saying that the matter was not reported to him by intelligence officers as it was not found credible.

Earlier, he had tweeted that neither him, nor VP Pence were informed about the matter.

WHAT BIDEN, RUSSIA & TALIBAN SAID

Joe Biden, the Democrat’s candidate for the US presidential polls later this year, lashed out at President Trump, saying that if the reports were true, it would make a shocking revelation about the failure of the president in protecting US troops in Afghanistan.

“The truly shocking revelation that if the Times report is true, and I emphasize that again, is that President Trump, the commander in chief of American troops serving in a dangerous theater of war, has known about this for months, according to the Times, and done worse than nothing," Biden said, according to news agency AP.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the report was an "unsophisticated plant" that "clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense."

A spokesperson for the Taliban told NYT that these reports were baseless.

  • "These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” the spokesperson said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them."

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