The White House confirmed that top U.S. intelligence officials will be briefing key congressional leaders known as the “Gang of Eight” on the report of suspected Russian bounties to Taliban for killing U.S. forces in Afghanistan, on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the press, “The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new.”
He pointed that “Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years.”
A new U.S. Department of Defense report also found that Russia “very likely” continue to support the Taliban to undermine the Afghan government and remove U.S. forces from the region.
The White House confirmed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Paul Nakasone will be presenting their findings at the congressional briefing which will be attended by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
Pelosi has said that immediate sanctions must be imposed on Russia if the reports were true.
The White House has maintained that information on the alleged Russian bounty could not be confirmed and therefore had not been told to President Donald Trump but now he has been briefed.
During an interview on Wednesday with Fox Business Network, Trump maintained that he had not been told “because it didn’t rise to that level” as U.S. intelligence did not think it was true.
New media reports are challenging these assertions with Reuters quoting U.S. and European government sources who said that fresh intelligence in recent weeks has lent to the credibility of the claims that a Russian military intelligence unit offered Taliban-linked militants bounties.
The New York Times also cited three U.S. officials who said that U.S. intelligence monitored electronic data showing large financial transactions between a Russian bank account and a Taliban-linked account.
They even found record of an Afghan middleman for the bounty contracts who paid upwards of $100,000 to Taliban-linked militants. When his home was raided by Afghan intelligence last year, they recovered half-million dollars.
Business Insider too, spoke with a Taliban commander who told them that individuals “have been receiving money and weapons from Russian intelligence.”
However, Pomepo downplayed the concerns and said the U.S. has reacted “correctly” regarding the protection of their troops.