White Home conscious of intel about Russian bounties on U.S. troops in 2019, sources say


High officers within the White Home have been conscious in early 2019 of categorized intelligence indicating Russia was secretly providing bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of People, a full 12 months sooner than has been beforehand reported, in keeping with U.S. officers with direct data of the intelligence.

The evaluation was included in no less than one among President Donald Trump’s written each day intelligence briefings on the time, in keeping with the officers. Then-national safety adviser John Bolton additionally informed colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence evaluation in March 2019.

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The White Home didn’t reply to questions on Trump or different officers’ consciousness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White Home has mentioned Trump was not — and nonetheless has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments as a result of they haven’t been totally verified. Nonetheless, it’s uncommon for intelligence to be confirmed and not using a shadow of a doubt earlier than it’s offered to high officers.

Bolton declined to remark Monday when requested by the AP if he had briefed Trump in regards to the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he instructed to NBC’s Meet the Press that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of a response.

“He can disown every thing if no person ever informed him about it,” Bolton mentioned.

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White Home distances Trump from assessments

The revelations forged new doubt on the White Home’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments. The AP reported Sunday that considerations about Russian bounties have been additionally included in a second written presidential each day briefing earlier this 12 months and that present nationwide safety adviser Robert O’Brien had mentioned the matter with Trump. O’Brien denies he did so.

The administration’s earlier consciousness of the Russian efforts raises further questions on why Trump didn’t take any punitive motion in opposition to Moscow for efforts that put the lives of People service members in danger. Trump has sought all through his time in workplace to enhance relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, transferring earlier this 12 months to attempt to reinstate Russia as a part of a gaggle of world leaders it had been kicked out of.

Officers mentioned they didn’t contemplate the intelligence assessments in 2019 to be notably pressing, on condition that Russian meddling in Afghanistan shouldn’t be a brand new incidence. The officers with data of Bolton’s obvious briefing for Trump mentioned it contained no “actionable intelligence,” which means the intelligence group didn’t have sufficient info to type a strategic plan or response. Nonetheless, the categorized evaluation of Russian bounties was the only real function of the assembly.

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Then-national safety adviser John Bolton informed colleagues he briefed U.S. President Donald Trump on the intelligence evaluation in March 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The officers insisted on anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to reveal the extremely delicate info.

The intelligence that surfaced in early 2019 indicated Russian operatives had grow to be extra aggressive of their need to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Community, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a international terrorist group in 2012 through the Obama administration.

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The Nationwide Safety Council and the undersecretary of defence for intelligence did maintain conferences concerning the intelligence. The Pentagon declined to remark and the NSC didn’t reply to questions in regards to the conferences.

Issues flare anew

Issues about Russian bounties flared anew this 12 months after members of the elite Naval Particular Warfare Growth Group, recognized to the general public as SEAL Crew Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 US. The funds bolstered the suspicions of the American intelligence group that the Russians had supplied cash to Taliban militants and different linked associations.

The White Home contends the president was unaware of this growth as nicely. Nonetheless, the data was additionally included within the presidential each day briefing. And officers informed the AP that O’Brien did temporary Trump on the matter. O’Brien has denied such a briefing occurred.

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The officers informed the AP that profession authorities officers developed potential choices for the White Home to reply to the Russian aggression in Afghanistan, which was first reported by The New York Occasions. Nonetheless, the Trump administration has but to authorize any motion.

The intelligence in 2019 and 2020 surrounding Russian bounties was derived partly from debriefings of captured Taliban militants. Officers with data of the matter informed the AP that Taliban operatives from reverse ends of the nation and from separate tribes supplied comparable accounts.

The officers wouldn’t identify the precise teams or give particular places in Afghanistan or time frames for once they have been detained.

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Russia denies, U.S. investigating report

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that Russian intelligence officers had supplied funds to the Taliban in alternate for focusing on U.S. and coalition forces.

The U.S. is investigating whether or not any People died on account of the Russian bounties. Officers are targeted particularly on an April 2019 assault on an American convoy. Three U.S. Marines have been killed after a automobile rigged with explosives detonated close to their armoured automobiles as they returned to Bagram Airfield, the most important U.S. navy set up in Afghanistan.

The Marines exchanged gunfire with the car sooner or later; nevertheless, it isn’t recognized if the gunfire occurred earlier than or after the automobile exploded.

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Taliban delegates arrive for talks in Moscow in Could 2019. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Related Press)

Abdul Raqib Kohistani, the Bagram district police chief, mentioned on the time that no less than 5 Afghan civilians have been wounded after the assault on the convoy, in keeping with earlier reporting by the AP. It’s not recognized if the civilians have been injured by the automobile bomb or the gunfire from U.S. Marines.

The Defence Division recognized Marine Workers Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, from Newark, Delaware; Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, from York, Pennsylvania; and Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, from Locust Valley, New York, because the Marines killed in April 2019. The three Marines have been all soldiers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve infantry unit headquartered out of Backyard Metropolis, New York.

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Hendriks’ father informed the AP that even a hearsay of Russian bounties ought to have been instantly addressed.

U.S. service members are seen at Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in September 2017. (Andrew Renneisen/Getty Photos)

“If this was type of swept below the carpet as to not make it an even bigger difficulty with Russia, and one ounce of blood was spilled once they knew this, I misplaced all respect for this administration and every thing,” Erik Hendriks mentioned.

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Marine Main Roger Hollenbeck mentioned on the time that the reserve unit was part of the Georgia Deployment Program-Resolute Assist Mission, a reoccurring, six-month rotation between U.S. Marines and Georgian Armed Forces. The unit first deployed to Afghanistan in October 2018.

Three different service members and an Afghan contractor have been additionally wounded within the assault. As of April 2019, the assault was below a separate investigation, unrelated to the Russian bounties, to find out the way it unfolded.

The officers who spoke to the AP additionally mentioned they have been trying intently at insider assaults — generally referred to as “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to find out if they’re additionally linked to Russian bounties.

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