U.S. lawmakers press for answers on alleged Russian-Taliban bounties intelligence

A man rides a bicycle near the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., the United States, June 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

he New York Times first reported Friday that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence that Russian intelligence units secretly offered bounties to Taliban-related militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan during U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

(Xinhua) — U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been seeking answers on alleged intelligence that Russians offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday requested an interagency brief for all members of the House immediately on this issue.

“The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed. Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

“The Administration’s disturbing silence and inaction endanger the lives of our troops and our coalition partners,” she added.

Combo photo shows U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump making their respective speeches on different occasions. (Xinhua)

Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted in a less tough tone the same day, “We need answers. I have asked the administration to share what it knows, and I expect to know more in the coming days.”

President Donald Trump said late Sunday that intelligence officials told him that this intelligence was not credible and thus he was not briefed.

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

The New York Times first reported Friday that Trump had been briefed on the intelligence that Russian intelligence units secretly offered bounties to Taliban-related militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan during U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

A screenshot taken from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account shows he tweeted on June 28, 2020 that “Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax.” (Xinhua)

The story also said the National Security Council discussed this issue at an interagency meeting in late March, while the White House thus far has not taken any actions to respond.

The Washington Post reported in a Sunday piece that Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants were believed to have led to the deaths of several U.S. soldiers.

Twenty-two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan last year, which marked the deadliest year for U.S. service members in the Central Asian country since 2014.

U.S. soldiers stand guard at the site of car bombing in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2015. (Xinhua/Tahir Safi)

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and the death toll of U.S. service members has surpassed 2,400 in this longest war in U.S. history. Trump has long complained about the endlessness of the war and sought a full withdrawal from the Central Asian country.

The United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal in late February, in which Washington said it would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days. The agreement also called for the full withdrawal of the U.S. military by May 2021 if the Taliban meets the conditions of the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups.

Commander of U.S. Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said earlier this month that the U.S. military had reduced its troops level to 8,600 in Afghanistan, fulfilling its first phased pullout obligation under the U.S.-Taliban deal.

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