There’s Still No Evidence Russia Paid the Taliban Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops
Among the most implausible stories to break this year was one from the New York Times claiming that Russia had been paying the Taliban bounties of $1,000 to kill American troops. Such reports immediately raised the question of why in the world the Taliban would need a financial incentive to attack U.S. forces, as that seems to be their M.O.
Of course, the real purpose of the story was to salvage whatever Russia hysteria remains, and direct that angst into accusations that President Trump is being friendly with Putin at a time when he’s attacking U.S. forces by proxy. And as always, the sources for the Times’ story were all anonymous. One of the anonymous sources said that their assessment was based “on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals,” which hardly produce the most reliable information.
The Times claimed that President Trump was briefed on this intel – something that both he and DNI John Ratcliffe denied. Because the story could be true, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did issue a warning to Russia’s foreign minister after the Times story broke.
But it’s looking like that was unnecessary.
According to The Hill:
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says in a new interview that he has not seen evidence to corroborate claims that Russian officials placed bounties on U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East.
Speaking with NBC News, Gen. Frank McKenzie said that reports in The New York Times and other media outlets indicating that U.S. intelligence officials were investigating reports that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban fighters for targeting U.S. service members had not been corroborated by evidence he had seen personally.
“It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. McKenzie told NBC News, adding, “We continue to look for that evidence. I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”
The general added in the interview that he had directed officials under his command to investigate the allegations, which have been seized upon by critics of the president as evidence of President Trump’s reluctance to criticize or confront Russian officials on foreign policy issues.
If this “Taliban bounty” program did exist, it was incredibly ineffective. Even the New York Times couldn’t verify a single U.S. troop killed in Afghanistan due to an alleged Russian county.