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1 Jul, 2020 03:55

Pentagon chief says ‘no corroborating evidence’ so far to back Russia bounty story

Pentagon chief says ‘no corroborating evidence’ so far to back Russia bounty story

The US secretary of defense said that while the Pentagon takes all threats against US troops “very seriously,” there is so far no proof for the ever-shifting story that Russia paid bounties for the killing of US soldiers.

In a statement on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the top military brass treats the security of military personnel, including in Afghanistan, as a high priority.

“I want to assure all of our service members that the Department takes very seriously any and all potential threats against US military personnel,” he said.

Esper noted that while he and others in the US military command seek to ensure that “the best intelligence,” as well as weapons, gear, and equipment are available to the troops on the ground, there is currently no “no corroborating evidence... to validate the recent allegations regarding malign activity by Russian personnel against US forces in Afghanistan.”

The ‘bombshell’ bounty claim – initially reported by the New York Times last Friday and later picked up by the bulk of the mainstream media without so much as a hint of skepticism – alleged a sinister pact between Russia and Taliban-linked elements, possibly criminals. Largely based on interviews with anonymous officials, the story initially alleged that US President Donald Trump had been briefed on the plot sometime in late March and did nothing in retaliation. Although the story was promptly dismissed by Moscow as nonsense, aimed at stalling the US military drawdown in Afghanistan, the #Resistance took it at face value, spinning it as more ‘proof’ of Trump’s cozy ties with the Kremlin – this time, at the expense of US service members.

Also on rt.com ‘Russian bounty’ story shifts: New York Times now claims Afghan CRIMINALS & not Taliban were paid, cites anonymous sources again

However, with the White House, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) vehemently denying the briefing ever happened, the narrative has shifted. The latest version of the story now claims that the intelligence was included in one of Trump’s written presidential daily briefs in February. Moreover, after the Taliban itself refuted the reports, saying that it did not need “encouragement” from any third party to carry out its raids, the NYT cited an official saying that the suspected recipients of the money are now believed to be “criminals closely associated with the Taliban.”

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