The Biden administration has only “low to medium” confidence that Russia put bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Thursday.
“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a U.S. official told reporters Thursday.
According to reporters who attended a briefing about the intelligence, officials attach a low confidence level to the allegation because it came from “detainee reporting,” meaning that a captured Taliban fighter likely provided the information.
Officials said that sources for the assessment are “information and evidence of connections to criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government.”
Democrats last year seized on news reports about alleged bounty payments to Taliban fighters to accuse President Donald Trump of being too soft on the Kremlin.
4) On the bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, there was some new interesting detail. Per the IC, there is a “low to medium confidence” assessment that Russian intel officers “sought to encourage Taliban attacks on personnel in 2019 and perhaps earlier.”
— Jenna McLaughlin (@JennaMC_Laugh) April 15, 2021
The New York Times reported last June that U.S. officials believed that Russian intelligence was paying Taliban fighters to target U.S. military personnel. The Times also initially reported that Trump was briefed on the situation, but did nothing in response to the Russian aggression.
Subsequent reports showed that U.S. officials were divided on whether Russia paid the bounties. The Times also softened its language about the level of confidence that officials had regarding payments. Trump himself questioned the accuracy of the report, while insisting that he had not been briefed about bounties.
Despite questions about the reporting, Democrats, including now-President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, blasted Trump for not retaliating against Russia, either through sanctions or other measures.