The United States intelligence community is not confident that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In September, the commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) General Frank McKenzie said there was no definitive proof of Russian bounties.
“I found what they presented to me very concerning, very worrisome. I just couldn’t see the final connection, so I sent my guys back and said, look, keep digging,” General McKenzie said.
“So we have continued to dig and look because this involves potential threats to U.S. forces, it’s open,” he added. “I just haven’t seen anything that closes that gap yet.”
A Change in Narrative About Russian Bounties
The assessment hasn’t changed since last summer when the Washington Post and New York Times released the story fanning the flames of why then-President Trump wasn’t taking action against Russia and President Putin.
Nevertheless, the narrative has now changed.
President Joe Biden, when campaigning for office in September, repeated, as if it were confirmed, that the Russians were paying bounties on the deaths of U.S. troops.
“I don’t understand why [President Trump] is unwilling to take on Putin when he’s actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan,” Biden said during the October 22 presidential debate.
After the Post/NYT story broke, Trump took to Twitter, as he normally did. He posted that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me [or to Vice President Mike Pence.]”
Members of both parties were upset with Trump for not acting on the unverified information. However, both the Taliban and Russia denied that such bounties existed.
Dmitri Peskov, the official spokesman for President Putin, called the report “ridiculous.”
“It’s a little bit rude, but this is 100 percent bulls—,” Peskov said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Russia has in fact supported the Taliban for years. Yet, there has never been definitive evidence that it has paid for the killing of U.S. troops.
On Thursday, the Biden White House released a fact sheet on sanctions on Russia. It once again stated that CIA intelligence on the matter is far from conclusive and acknowledged that analysts labeled it “low to moderate confidence.”
Although Washington is sanctioning Russia for its continued aggression and malign behavior, the fact sheet was clear that the supposed Russian bounties weren’t a contributing reason for the sanctions. But mentioned it with craftily worded language about “reported Afghanistan bounties.”
The White House Isn’t Forthright in Denying the Existence of Bounties
White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not answer directly when asked if the White House now believes the CIA’s assessment. Instead, she repeated the previous administration’s reasons for assessing the information as “low to moderate” confidence.
Namely, she said that the information is of low confidence because some of it came from Afghan detainees and due to the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan. You can read “challenging operating environment” to mean “detainees making up stories to get themselves released.”
President Biden changed his wording as well after taking office. He went from mentioning Putin as “actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers” to talking of “reports of bounties.”
However, what he didn’t do was mention or acknowledge that the original narrative about Russian bounties was wrong. Or that it was based on unsubstantiated intelligence reporting.
In the last two elections much was made by the Left of Russian “influence” and “disinformation” campaigns that supposedly beguiled Americans into voting for Trump. But here we have, what looks like, an actual disinformation campaign concocted by our own mainstream media and then used by the Left to sway voters over to President Biden. And now after the election, we find out it was rumor and hearsay and there was no concrete evidence to back it up.
There is a joke that goes: “What’s the difference between Russia and the Media?”
“One is a corrupt, lying gang of thugs that hates America, and the other is a country run by Vladimir Putin.”
I wish that wasn’t funny, or even remotely true, but it is.