The White House is set to brief Democrats over the intelligence reports that suggested Russian military intelligence unit had offered incentives to Taliban-linked militants to kill US troops. While a New York Times report claimed that the US President Donald Trump was briefed on the issue in March, officials dismissed it saying Trump had not been made aware of it since there was no consensus on the intelligence among US agencies.
After the reports of bounties emerged in US media, the White House briefed fellow Republicans on June 29, prompting two House Republicans to express their concern over alleged Russian activity in Afghanistan. Mac Thornberry and Liz Cheney said in a statement that it is important to “vigorously pursue” any information related to any country targeting US forces.
“Congress has no more important obligation than providing for the security of our nation and ensuring our forces have the resources they need. We anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days,” said the duo.
Several House Democrats will reportedly be briefed by the White House at 5.30pm IST on June 30 after strong criticism. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel after formally requested for a full House briefing on the intelligence surrounding Russian bounties. Pelosi said in a statement that she reiterated the primary purpose of the intelligence community, which is force protection.
“Many serious questions remain regarding what the White House is doing to address threats to American and allied troops and to hold Russia accountable,” she added.
In the formal request, Pelosi had said that the administration’s “disturbing silence and inaction” endanger the lives of US troops and coalition partners. She said that Trump’s refusal to stand up to the Russians also jeopardises lives in the region, as the Afghan government and the United States are engaged in critical peace negotiations with the Taliban.
“Congress and the country need answers now. I therefore request an interagency brief for all House Members immediately,” she wrote.
However, Russia has dismissed the media reports of the alleged involvement of its military intelligence unit in contract killings of US troops in Afghanistan, calling it “another piece of fake news”. In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the ministry said that the report demonstrates “low intellectual abilities” of US intelligence “propagandists”.
“Nevertheless, what else could be expected from the intelligence agency that has failed miserably in the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan," the statement read.