Washington, June 27 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump and his deputy, Mike Pence, did not know about an intelligence report that Russia allegedly offered money to Taliban fighters in exchange for killing foreign troops in Afghanistan, the White House said on Saturday.
“The United States receives thousands of intelligence reports a day, and they are subject to strict scrutiny,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
“While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President was briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
She was referring to a report released by The New York Times that American intelligence officials had concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Times citing unnamed officials briefed on the matter said it included targeting American troops amid the Taliban-US peace talks to end the nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan.
The intelligence officials, according to the newspaper, relayed the findings to the government and briefed President Trump.
It said the White House’s National Security Council discussed the matter at an interagency meeting in late March.
They also listed potential options, which included making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses.
But the White House has yet to authorize any step against Russia, the Times said, citing officials.
McEnany did not deny the validity of the intelligence report but said the New York Times may have erroneously suggested that Trump knew about any findings like that.
“This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter,” McEnany said.
The Russian embassy in Washington, DC, denounced the report as “baseless” said in a series of tweets that it has sparked death threats to its staffers.
“Baseless and anonymous accusations (published by The New York Times] of Moscow as the mastermind behind the killing of US soldiers in Afghanistan have already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian embassies in Washington DC and London,” the embassy said.
“In the absence of reasons to #BlameRussians, (The New York Times) is there to invent new fake stories.”
The embassy named authors of the Times report in its tweets alleging they “obviously lack information on cooperation between Russia and US on the Afghan peace process, on Syrian, North Korean, Venezuelan, Iranian agendas.”
The Taliban have rejected the report.
“We strongly reject this allegation. The nineteen-year Jihad of the Islamic Emirate is not indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country and neither is the Islamic Emirate in need of anyone in specifying objectives,” the militant group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement Saturday.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addressed the issue during a virtual meeting on Saturday, noting that the Trump administration “has been a gift” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and described as the White House’s inaction against Moscow as “treason”.
“It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way. It’s a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere overseas.” EFE-EPA