Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on US Troops

dandyfopp

Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

The recovery of large amounts of American cash at a Taliban outpost in Afghanistan helped tip off U.S. officials. It is believed that at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties.


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/28/us/politics/russian-bounties-warnings-trump.html

  • Published June 28, 2020Updated June 29, 2020


WASHINGTON — United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter. They believed at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties, two of the officials said.


The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions.


Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.


Armed with this information, military and intelligence officials have been reviewing American and other coalition combat casualties over the past 18 months to determine whether any were victims of the plot. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked American positions since a February agreement to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.


The details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported Friday has been under discussion inside the Trump administration since at least March, and emerged as the White House confronted a growing chorus of criticism on Sunday over its apparent failure to authorize a response to Russia.


Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence, expanding on a similar White House rebuttal a day earlier. But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.


The president “needs to immediately expose and handle this, and stop Russia’s shadow war,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter.


Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not been briefed on the intelligence assessment and had asked for an immediate report to Congress. She accused Mr. Trump of wanting “to ignore” any charges against Russia.


“Russia has never gotten over the humiliation they suffered in Afghanistan, and now they are taking it out on us, our troops,” she said of the Soviet Union’s bloody war there in the 1980s. “This is totally outrageous. You would think that the minute the president heard of it, he would want to know more instead of denying that he knew anything.”


Spokespeople for the C.I.A., the director of national intelligence and the Pentagon declined to comment on the new findings. A National Security Council spokesman, John L. Ullyot, said in a statement on Sunday night, “The veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated.”


Mr. Trump said Sunday night on Twitter that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP.” One senior administration official offered a similar explanation, saying that Mr. Trump was not briefed because the intelligence agencies had come to no consensus on the findings.


But another official said there was broad agreement that the intelligence assessment was accurate, with some complexities because different aspects of the intelligence — including interrogations and surveillance data — resulted in some differences among agencies in how much confidence to put in each type.


Though the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, claimed on Saturday that Mr. Trump had not been briefed about the intelligence report, one American official had told The Times that the report was briefed to the highest levels of the White House. Another said it was included in the President’s Daily Brief, a compendium of foreign policy and national security intelligence compiled for Mr. Trump to read.


Ms. McEnany did not challenge The Times’s reporting on the existence of the intelligence assessment, a National Security Council interagency meeting about it in late March and the White House’s inaction. Multiple other news organizations also subsequently reported on the assessment, and The Washington Post first reported on Sunday that the bounties were believed to have resulted in the death of at least one American service member.


The officials briefed on the matter said that the assessment had been treated as a closely held secret but that the administration expanded briefings about it over the last week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces were among those said to have been targeted.


Republicans in Congress demanded more information from the Trump administration about what happened and how the White House planned to respond.


Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a Twitter post on Sunday: “If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?”


Multiple Republicans retweeted Ms. Cheney’s post. Representative Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas and a former member of the Navy SEALs, amplified her message, tweeting, “We need answers.”


In a statement in response to questions, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said he had long warned about Russia’s work to undermine American interests in the Middle East and southwest Asia and noted that he wrote an amendment last year rebuking Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of forces from Syria and Afghanistan.


“The United States needs to prioritize defense resources, maintain a sufficient regional military presence and continue to impose serious consequences on those who threaten us and our allies — like our strikes in Syria and Afghanistan against ISIS, the Taliban and Russian mercenary forces that threatened our partners,” Mr. McConnell said.


Aides for other top Republicans either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


In addition to saying he was never “briefed or told” about the intelligence report — a formulation that went beyond the White House denial of any formal briefing — Mr. Trump also cast doubt on the assessment’s credibility, which statements from his subordinates had not.


Specifically, he described the intelligence report as being about “so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians”; the report described bounties paid to Taliban militants by Russian military intelligence officers, not direct attacks. Mr. Trump also suggested that the developments could be a “hoax” and questioned whether The Times’s sources — government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity — existed.


Mr. Trump then pivoted to attack former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who criticized the president on Saturday for failing to punish Russia for offering bounties to the Taliban, as well as Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, who is the target of unsubstantiated claims that he helped a Ukrainian energy firm curry favor with the Obama administration when his father was vice president.


“Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine — Where’s Hunter?”


American officials said the Russian plot to pay bounties to Taliban fighters came into focus over the past several months after intelligence analysts and Special Operations forces put together key pieces of evidence.


One official said the seizure of a large amount of American cash at one Taliban site got “everybody’s attention” in Afghanistan. It was not clear when the money was recovered.

Two officials said the information about the bounty hunting was “well known” among the intelligence community in Afghanistan, including the C.I.A.’s chief of station and other top officials there, like the military commandos hunting the Taliban. The information was distributed in intelligence reports and highlighted in some of them.


The assessment was compiled and sent up the chain of command to senior military and intelligence officials, eventually landing at the highest levels of the White House. The Security Council meeting in March came at a delicate time, as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and prompting shutdowns around the country.


A former American official said the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, and the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, would have been involved in any decision to brief Mr. Trump on Russia’s activities, as would have the intelligence analyst who briefs the president.. The director of the C.I.A., Gina Haspel, might have also weighed in, the former official said.


Ms. McEnany cited those three senior officials in her statement saying the president had not been briefed.


National security officials have tracked Russia’s relationship with the Taliban for years and determined that Moscow has provided financial and material support to senior and regional Taliban leaders.


While Russia has at times cooperated with the United States and appeared interested in Afghan stability, it often seems to work at crosscurrents with its own national interest if the result is damage to American national interests, said a former senior Trump White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security assessments.


Revenge is also a factor in Russia’s support for the Taliban, the official said. Russia has been keen to even the scales after a bloody confrontation in 2018 in Syria, when a massive U.S. counterattack killed hundreds of Syrian forces along with Russian mercenaries nominally supported by the Kremlin.

“They are keeping a score sheet, and they want to punish us for that incident,” the official said.

Both Russia and the Taliban have denied the American intelligence assessment.


Ms. Pelosi said that if the president had not, in fact, been briefed, then the country should be concerned that his administration was afraid to share with him information regarding Russia.

Ms. Pelosi said that the episode underscored Mr. Trump’s accommodating stance toward Russia and that with him, “all roads lead to Putin.”


“This is as bad as it gets, and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score, denies being briefed,” she said. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan have been briefed and accept this report.”


John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, said on “This Week” that he was not aware of the intelligence assessment, but he questioned Mr. Trump’s response on Twitter.

“What would motivate the president to do that, because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we’re not doing anything about it?” Mr. Bolton said. “The presidential reaction is to say: ‘It’s not my responsibility. Nobody told me about it.’ And therefore to duck any complaints that he hasn’t acted effectively.”


Mr. Bolton said this summed up Mr. Trump’s decision-making on national security issues. “It’s just unconnected to the reality he’s dealing with.”

SaveComment28Like
Comments (28)
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

The recovery of large amounts of American cash at a Taliban outpost in Afghanistan helped tip off U.S. officials.

Who has a plane full of US dollars? Iran. Thanks obama.

Is there a reason why Putin paid the Taliban in US dollars? Doesn't make any sense to me.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dandyfopp


Mom of Marine killed in Afghanistan wants investigation of claim Russians paid Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers


https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/29/mom-of-marine-killed-in-afghanistan-wants-russia-bounty-claim-investigated.html?__source=twitter|main

  • The mother of a Marine killed last year in Afghanistan wants an investigation of reports that her son and two other Marines may have been the targets of Taliban-linked fighters who collected a bounty on U.S. soldiers offered by a Russian military intelligence unit.
  • Felicia Arculeo, whose son Cpl. Robert Hendriks died in the April 8, 2019, attack, also told CNBC “that the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”
  • President Donald Trump has said intelligence officials did not brief him on suspicions that a Russian unit was offering bounties for the deaths of American soldiers. Trump also said intelligence officials did not find the claim credible.


The mother of a Marine killed last year in Afghanistan said Monday that she wants a thorough investigation of reports that her son and two other Marines may have been the targets of Taliban-linked fighters who collected a bounty on U.S. soldiers offered by a Russian military intelligence unit.

Felicia Arculeo, whose son Cpl. Robert Hendriks died in the April 8, 2019, attack, also told CNBC “that the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”

Arculeo, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., said she has not been contacted by U.S. intelligence or military officials since Friday.

That was the day that The New York Times broke the news that American intelligence agencies had assessed that a Russian intelligence unit last year offered bounties to Islamist fighters in Afghanistan who killed U.S. soldiers.

The Times also reported that President Donald Trump had been briefed on that belief in March, but as of yet had not decided on whether or how to retaliate against Russia after being presented with a menu of options.

Other news outlets, including NBC News, have confirmed that there is intelligence backing up the claim that a Russian unit offered bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

“I just happened to randomly see” the news about the report, Arculeo said.

“I got pretty upset.”

Her 25-year-old son, Hendriks, and the other two Marines, Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, and 43-year-old Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, were killed by a car bomb near Bagram Air Field. The three Marines, who had been assigned to the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, died just days before they were scheduled to return home from Afghanistan.

On Sunday, The Associated Press reported that officials said the intelligence community was investigating whether the attack was linked to the suspected Russian bounty offer.

An official familiar with the intelligence told NBC News that the United States has gathered information showing that Russian operatives paid bounties for killing American soldiers to the Taliban, and that members of the U.S. military, along with Afghan civilians, died as a result of attacks launched to collect those cash rewards.

Arculeo said that the possible link of the attack that killed her son to Russian bounties should continue to be probed despite the White House’s claim that the intelligence about the bounties is not verified.

“Absolutely, that should be investigated,” she said.

Asked what should be done if it is determined that Russia paid a bounty for the killing of her son, Arculeo said, “Look, that’s a tough question.”

“At the end of the day, my son is still gone. He’s still not coming home,” she said.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Monday told reporters, “There was not a consensus among the intelligence community” about whether the bounty payments were offered.

“And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified,” McEnany said.

Trump in a tweet Sunday wrote, “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or” to Vice President Mike Pence.

Democratic leaders in Congress demanded that the Trump administrationbrief both the House and the Senate on the intelligence related to the bounties.

“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA chief Gina Haspel.

“Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi said in the letter.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

Nuthouse nancy doesn't need to see anything. She's senile and crazy. She would probably tear it up with a blank gaze on her face, and tell you what she thought it said.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cattyles

Who would have ever thought we’d see this? Even more shocking is that anyone would defend it.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vgkg Z-7 Va(Z-7)

Even more shocking is that anyone would defend it.

It used to be shocking, those days are long gone....along with any scruples.

2 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Ziemia(6a)

Again, Trump is among the last to know and he is OK with that.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
queenmargo

Trump "knew" he was being spied on and the left denied it.

Trump "knew" the dossier was a HOAX and the left denied it.

Trump "knew" the impeachment was a HOAX, and the left denied it.

Trump "knew" that the left was using Covid as a HOAX to his re-election, and the left denied it.

So, if the left now tells you that Trump "knew", that means for sure he DIDN'T.

#TRE44ON.

2 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

Office of the DNI

@ODNIgov

·Jun 27

Statement by DNI Ratcliffe: "I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday." (1/2)

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deegw

Sycophant, unqualified newly appointed DNI Ratcliffe is telling lies for Trump? Gee, that's a shocker.

3 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

Left wing media spreading fake news? Nothing new. The left should have learned by now. Go ahead and delete this, too.

3 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vgkg Z-7 Va(Z-7)

Ratcliffe doesn't want to be donald's next "rat" in line.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

NYTimes and CNN don't have any problems with making fools out of their readers. That's what you get for going to known propaganda outlets.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

No matter how low one thinks Trump can go, he manages to surprise and do something even more vile than the worst expectations.

3 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lurker111

Tabloid mentality.

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
miss lindsey (stillmissesSophie,chase,others)(8a)

And the park police confirmed that tear gas wasn’t used on protestors—until it didn’t.

The Trump Admin has a major issue with trustworthiness at the moment.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deegw

I hope AnnieD chimes in so she can give us a laundry list of bald-faced lies told by the Trump administration to cover his behind.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
miss lindsey (stillmissesSophie,chase,others)(8a)

“And you claim to be a republican!”

Are you talking to me lurker? I’ve never claimed to be a Republican.

I’m conservative (increasingly less so every day) and I have only ever voted Republican. You might think that’s a distinction without a difference but I don’t.

(nothing he’s been accused of has been debunked. refusing to look at the evidence does not mean it isn’t there.)

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cattyles

Trump knew that Putin was paying a bounty for killing US soldiers. If you continue to defend him there is nothing else to discuss.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jerzeegirl (FL zone 9B)(9b)

I cannot imagine how the parents of the three dead soldiers feel about what happened to their sons. It's time to begin hearings in the House about this travesty.

2 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Iris GW

Trump: what did he know and when did he know it (and then ignore it)?

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
numbersjunkie

I think DNI Ratcliffes statement is carefully worded. Does "never briefed" mean a personal briefing? With in depth details and intellegence reports? Maybe Trump refused the briefing - told the IC he knew it was fake be because Putin told him so and refused to hear any more about it. What does "confirmed" mean? He asked Trump and Pence directly and they said they were never briefed? Or maybe Ratcliffe is just a liar like the rest of the Administration. All of the above?

2 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Joaniepoanie

Why isn’t Trump making a statement? What is he hiding?

Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
terezosa / terriks

I think DNI Ratcliffes statement is carefully worded. Does "never briefed" mean a personal briefing?

Right. It could have been in the PDB, but if Trump didn't read it, then he was "never briefed."

2 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deegw

Bingo^ Barr probably drafted the statement.

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jmm1837

"Is there a reason why Putin paid the Taliban in US dollars? Doesn't make any sense to me."


If you'd ever been in the developing world you'd understand. Dollars will buy you stuff anywhere; roubles won't. It makes perfect sense.

3 Likes Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
queenmargo

Why isn’t Trump making a statement? What is he hiding?

Trump likes to let the left make comment fools of themselves and then when the truth comes out he exposes the left for what they really are. WITCH HUNTERS!

1 Like Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dandyfopp

!!


Save    
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
vgkg Z-7 Va(Z-7)

Trump likes to let the left make comment fools of themselves and then when the truth comes out he exposes the left for what they really are

^^^ Yeah sure, trump is just setting the demos up, nyuk, don't sell trump short margo, he setting the whole country up.

1 Like Save    
Browse Gardening and Landscaping Stories on Houzz See all Stories
Home Tech The Inevitable Future of Drones Around Your Home
As Google joins the push for airborne deliveries, it seems only a matter of time before neighborhoods are buzzing with drones. Is that OK?
Full Story
Most Popular Is Open-Plan Living a Fad, or Here to Stay?
Architects, designers and Houzzers around the world have their say on this trend and predict how our homes might evolve
Full Story
Most Popular 7 Reasons Not to Clean Up Your Fall Garden
Before you pluck and rake, consider wildlife, the health of your plants and your own right to relax
Full Story
Inspiration for some backyard chats
Inspiration for a warm welcome
Inspiration for dinner time under the stars
Inspiration for a little quality time
Inspiration for making that best pizza ever
Houston-area homeowners, builders, developers and architects know they can rely on us for dependable service,... Read More