U.S. commander: Intel still hasn’t established Russia paid Taliban ‘bounties’ to kill U.S. troops

  • Date of Publication : 15/09/2020 at 08:35 GMT
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Two months after top Pentagon officials vowed to get to the bottom of whether the Russian government bribed the Taliban to kill American service members, the commander of troops in the region says a detailed review of all available intelligence has not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program.

“It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told NBC News. McKenzie oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. continues to hunt for new information on the matter, he said.

“We continue to look for that evidence,” the general said. “I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”

McKenzie’s comments, reflecting a consensus view among military leaders, underscores the lack of certainty around a narrative that has been accepted as fact by Democrats and other Trump critics, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has cited Russian bounties in attacks on President Donald Trump.

U.S. intelligence agencies have for years documented Russian financial and military support to the Taliban, but a Russian program to incentivize the killing of American service members would represent a significant escalation.

Trump said he did not raise the issue of Russian payments to the Taliban in his most recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics have said he should have. Senior military officials say they don’t believe the intelligence is strong enough to act on.

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