In an official statement, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) said they had found no evidence to validate the allegations that Russian military intelligence operatives were secretly offering bounties to Taliban-affiliated militants and criminals to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
“To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said.
Hoffman stated that they were continuing to evaluate the intelligence report because “regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan — and around the world — most seriously.”
A new Associated Press (AP) report said Top White House officials were aware in 2019 of classified intelligence that indicated Russia was secretly offering bounties to Taliban-affiliated militants and criminals to kill American soldiers, a full year earlier than it had been previously reported.
U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence told AP that the assessment had been included in at least one of Trump’s daily intelligence briefings. Then-national security advisor John Bolton also told his colleagues that he had briefed Trump on this assessment in March 2019.
The White House has said Trump was not briefed on the intelligence assessments because they were not fully verified.
“Everybody is denying it and there have not been many attacks on us,” Trump also tweeted.
In a separate tweet, Trump added: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP [Vice President Mike Pence].”
However, AP notes that it is “rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to top officials.”
The news agency also reported that Russian bounty concerns were included in a second written presidential daily briefing earlier in 2020 and current national security advisor Robert O’Brien discussed it with Trump.
However, O’Brien said that while the intelligence assessments regarding Russian bounties “have not been verified,” the administration has “been preparing should the situation warrant action.”
Another report by The New York times on Sunday mentioned U.S. intelligence and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan had alerted superiors in January 2020 to the suspected Russian plot.