Intelligence community shows little confidence in claims Russia paid bounties to Taliban to attack U.S. troops
UPDATED 12:48 PM PT – Friday, April 16, 2021
The U.S. Intelligence Community has not put very much faith in a report that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This information came during a call between a senior Biden administration official and reporters Thursday, who said the Intelligence Community had “low to moderate confidence” in the report.
This assessment shows the Intelligence Community has considered the report “unproven and possibly untrue.” The claims, which were roundly rejected by President Trump when they came to light in July, said Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Biden administration announced sanctions against Russia linked to the massive SolarWinds hack. Officials were quick to point out the sanctions were not linked to the bounty claims.
When asked about the Intelligence Community’s assessment, Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted the “low to moderate confidence,” however, didn’t back down on the belief that Russia was somehow involved in attacks in Afghanistan.
“Our Intelligence Community, I should say, assesses that a General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate — GRU, also known as — managed interaction with individuals in Afghan criminal networks,” Psaki said. “We have high confidence in that assessment and the involvement of this GRU’s unit is consistent with Russia’s encouraging attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan.”
Psaki instead put the burden on the Kremlin to explain the claims. The White House press secretary also walked around a question on whether or not Joe Biden regretted attacking President Trump over the bounties report on the campaign trail.
According to the top military officials at the time the claims came out, the report was “uncorroborated,” but they were looking into the matter.
“That is a unique, discrete piece of information that is not corroborated. I, and the Secretary and many others are taking it serious,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated. “We’re gonna get to the bottom of it. When I find out if, in fact, it’s true. And if it is true, we will take action.”
The Pentagon also noted its own intelligence-gathering efforts did not generate the report, noting as late as September it remained uncorroborated. The commander of the U.S. Central Command that same month said he hadn’t seen sufficient evidence to prove Russian officials paid the Taliban.
No further reports verifying the claims were ever released.
According to Psaki and reports, the claims of “bounties” came from “detainee reporting,” which suggests the story may have come from a prisoner telling their jailer what they thought would free them from confinement.