Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said Monday the U.S. is yet to find conclusive evidence that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops.
“It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” McKenzie, who oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan, told NBC News on Monday.
He said the matter is still under investigation.
“We continue to look for that evidence. I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”
The New York Times first broke the story in June, citing anonymous administration officials as saying that a Russian spy unit paid bounties to Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2019 to hunt down U.S. troops.
The anonymous officials the Times cited said both the President and the National Security Council were briefed on the issue but they ignored it.
Both Trump and former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell denied being briefed on the matter.
“Nobody briefed or told me, [Vice President Mike Pence], or Chief of Staff [Mark Meadows] about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News [New York Times],” Trump tweeted in June. “Everybody is denying it [and] there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine — Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their ‘source’?”
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…Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine – Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their “source”?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2020
At the time, Gen. McKenzie called the allegations “very worrisome” but argued he couldn’t confirm that any U.S. service members were actually killed as part of the alleged Russia-Taliban scheme.
During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in July, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that “all the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate” the Times’ report.
During the same hearing, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated Esper’s claim, saying that they “don’t have cause and effect linkages to a Russian bounty program causing U.S. Military casualties,” Milley said. “However, we are still looking. We’re not done. We’re going to run this thing to ground.”
If they found the allegations to be true, Milley said “we will take action.”
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Author: Damjan Tutarkov
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