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Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations

30 Jun 2020 TheHill

The Department of Defense (DOD) said late Monday that it has not validated reported intelligence assessing that Russia offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces, including U.S. troops, in Afghanistan. 

“The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan.  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.

“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,” he continued.

President Trump has claimed that he was not briefed on the details of the intelligence, which were first reported by The New York Times on Friday.

“Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!” Trump tweeted on Sunday, referring to the reports.

Multiple outlets reported that Trump was briefed on the intelligence and that administration officials had not authorized any further actions.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that intelligence assessments concluded that the payments led to the deaths of U.S. service members and The Associated Press reported Monday that top White House officials were aware of intelligence indicating that Russia was offering the bounties in early 2019.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for answers on the reports, including top GOP officials.

White house press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that lawmakers would be briefed on the matter.

“Intelligence, we don’t comment on it routinely but just so you know how it works, it is vetted for its veracity and it only goes to the president and the high-level officials when it is deemed as verifiable and credible,” she added.

On Monday, the White House briefed at least seven House Republicans: Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (Texas), and Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.). 

A group of House Democrats will be briefed early Tuesday. Senators will also have access to intelligence documents related to the reports.

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