- Trump has dismissed the New York Times report saying Russian army officers offered a bounty to Taliban forces.
- He has underlined that there is little evidence to support the story.
- Russia sometimes liaises with Taliban to purge ISIS from the region.
News of the Russian military offering bounties to Afghan militant forces to take out American soldiers has caused a stir. It has pushed Congress to seek details on the matter. US President Donald Trump has, however, tweeted that it was a hoax aimed at discrediting his party.
The President issued the following statement via Twitter dismissing the story:
“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or [Vice President Mike Pence]. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News [The New York Times], wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said that the New York Times report is unsubstantiated. She has cited this as the main reason why neither the president nor the vice president was briefed on this. “This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter.”
The New York Times published the story on Friday indicating that US intelligence investigations had unraveled a scheme by a Russian military unit aimed at undermining US military operations in Afghanistan. According to the report, the group had paid out money to Afghan fighters to have them attack American army officers.
The story was picked up by the Washington Post, which also confirmed the reports. The New York Times subsequently claimed that US military officers had informed their superiors about the plot as early as January.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed the report as false. “This primitive informational dump clearly demonstrates low intellectual abilities of the propagandists at the American intelligence service,” he said in a statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated that like the president, she did not get an intelligence briefing on the matter. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had called for tougher sanctions on Russia after the release of the unverified incriminating exposition. “There’s obviously more to this story, but it is pretty remarkable the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it,” he said,
That said, there was a limited release of information pertaining to the potential scandal on Monday, but only to a few Republican White House officials. They included Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT), Jim Banks (R-UT), and Michael McCaul (R-TX). It is not clear why the information was availed to this particular group of legislators.
Russia maintains diplomatic ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also provides military aid to the Afghan leadership at a time when the US is reducing its presence in the zone. Russia regularly liaises with Taliban groups to purge ISIS from the area.