Donald Trump, on Wednesday morning, called reports that have been confirmed by every major news outlet, as well as multiple countries, a “fake news” story that was created to damage him. But three NATO officials told Business Insider they had been briefed on the matter by US intelligence. The reports Trump denies state that there are intelligence briefings that discuss bounties being offered to Taliban extremists from Russia on U.S. soldiers.
And now, two current commanders with the Taliban and one former commander have confirmed to Business Insider that Russia pays extremists in Afghanistan to attack U.S. troops. It appears that the only people denying the intel reports are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
But three separate Taliban sources told Insider they were aware of Russian bounty payments being made — though they said only the less-disciplined elements on the fringes of the group would take up such an offer.”
And it’s not just Russia, apparently, but Iran and Pakistan also fund these activities, according to the sources. One of the sources told the outlet that there are various groups with the Taliban.
“There are a lot of groups and commanders that are with the Taliban but not controlled by the Taliban,” he said. “These are the people who will do anything for money, and Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and other countries will hire them for operations.”
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters today, “We took this seriously, we handled it appropriately.” Pompeo’s statements seemed to, perhaps inadvertently, contradict the president, who called the reports a “HOAX.”
The Washington Post reports that “Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed after a White House briefing that, “There was intelligence reported on the allegation that the Russians were offering a bounty to the Taliban to kill Americans.”
McCaul continued to say that there was a “massive scrub within the intelligence community to try to find out the veracity of this reporting.” He also suggested that it is serious enough that, if the reports are accurate, it would warrant “swift and serious action” against Russia.
Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien appeared on Fox and Friends and confirmed the situation was serious enough that the military was alerted and that contingencies were being planned for how to respond, according to the news outlet.
The backlash is bipartisan now, even within Trump’s administration. Only Trump is calling the bounty scandal a hoax. To Donald Trump, he is the real victim in all of this, not the American soldiers with bounties dangling over their heads.
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