Last Monday, the Department of Defense said “there is no confirmatory evidence” in support of last week’s explosive New York Times report that the Russian military offered gifts to Taliban-linked militants to kill US troops in Afghanistan. .
The report sent shock waves through Washington and prompted President Trump to completely deny knowledge of the information mentioned in the report.
“To date, DOD has no evidence to substantiate the recent allegations found in open source reports. Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan ̵
The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported on Friday that some “Islamist militants” or “criminal elements” are believed to have collected payments. The report pointed out that 20 Americans were killed there in 2019. It was unclear whether any of those dead were the result of a bounty.
Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, said in a statement that since the allegations in the report have not been verified by the secret service community, Trump has not been informed on the matter.
“However, the administration, including the staff of the National Security Council, prepared itself if the situation warranted action,” he said. He said that Trump’s top priority is the safety of Americans and the safety of men and women who perform military service.
Representative Michael McCaul, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and representative Adam Kinzinger were present in the briefing led by director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and security adviser national Robert O’Brien. McCaul and Kinzinger said in a statement that lawmakers were told “there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of these reports.”
“If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the Administration to take swift and serious steps to make Putin’s regime accountable,” they said.
The White House has argued that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence have been informed of this intelligence. “This does not speak on the merits of the alleged intelligence, but on the inaccuracy of the New York Times story that erroneously suggests that President Trump has been informed of the issue,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
A White House official on Monday told Fox News that Trump had been briefed on the matter. It is unclear exactly when this briefing took place, but the official claims it occurred “after the NY Times reported unverified information”.
The statement runs counter to the White House, which insisted that Trump has not yet been informed.
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Thomas Joscelyn, a senior member of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group of experts, told the Wall Street Journal that “Moscow’s willingness to embrace the Taliban openly and publicly goes back several years” and would not be surprised if there was truth the relationship.
Andrew O’Reilly and Fox News Associated Press contributed to this report