The Department of Defense (DOD) is denying the reports that allege Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. soldiers.
“To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement late Monday. “Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan—and around the world—most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.”
As The New York Times noted in a report on Friday, “Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.”
According to The New York Times report on Monday, the president received a written briefing in February on the alleged Russian bounties, citing two officials. Additionally, The Associated Press reports, “Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.”
The reports come as the White House has said that the president has still not been briefed on it.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during Monday’s press briefing the president “has not been briefed on the matter,” and added, “There’s no consensus among the intelligence community and there are, in fact, dissenting opinions.”
Additionally, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe noted later Monday in a statement on leaks:
“We are still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting, and we will brief the president and congressional leaders at the appropriate time. This is the analytic process working the way it should. Unfortunately, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”
See Ratcliffe’s full statement below:
DNI Ratcliffe issues statement on impact of unauthorized disclosures on force protection pic.twitter.com/Pr7PbWk443— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) June 30, 2020
Echoing similar remarks to Ratcliffe, CIA Director Gina Haspel said in a statement, “Leaks compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability.”
See Haspel’s statement below:
Just in: New statement from CIA Director Gina Haspel pic.twitter.com/e3JQ1EcH7N— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) June 30, 2020
“This isn’t a time for politics,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said. “This is a time to focus on the two things Congress should be asking and looking at.” He added, “Who knew what, when, and did the commander-in-chief know? And if not, how the hell not?”
See his full remarks below:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday called for a Congressional briefing on the issue, as IJR reported. According to The Wall Street Journal, multiple Democratic lawmakers are expected to have a separate briefing early Tuesday.