Politics Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports
Taliban reaffirm commitment to US deal in Pompeo call
The Taliban reaffirmed their commitment to a February deal to draw down the war in Afghanistan during a call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the group's spokesman has said. The discussion came as US President Donald Trump faces mounting pressure to explain why he did nothing after being reportedly told that Russian spies had offered and paid cash to Taliban-linked militants for killing American soldiers.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused journalists of spreading misinformation related to reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-backed fighters to kill U.S. service members in Afghanistan.
The secretary further refused to discuss what he knew of intelligence briefings about the bounties, saying such public discussions put American soldiers at risk.
"A lot of what you said suggests knowledge that I don't think you actually have," Pompeo told one reporter who asked about the Russian bounties.
"I'm not going to put at risk the young men and women of Afghanistan in the same way that some news organizations have done... And you ought not be part of that," he told another reporter.
Pompeo asks Taliban 'not to attack Americans' amid reports Russia paid militants to kill US troops in Afghanistan
The secretary of state said Tuesday that he pressed "the Taliban to live up to their commitments," including "not to attack Americans.""Spoke yesterday with the Taliban chief negotiator to press the Taliban to live up to their commitments under the US -Taliban Agreement, including not to attack Americans," Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
President Trumpnews reports that Russia was incentivizing the murder of coalition forces in Afghanistan, first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In response to a question about whether Trump should have been told about Russian bounties on offer, Pompeo shot back, "You have six things in your question there that are just, I'm not going to go there."
He added, "You've got assumptions about things that just don't reflect what it is that we've actually seen and done."
"I can assure you, that whatever reporting it is that you're referring to, that we responded in precisely the correct way," he said, adding that U.S. forces were aware of threats and their credibility.
"The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that's adverse to the United States is nothing new," he said.
Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill
House Democrats expect to address the intelligence showing Russia offered bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops - as well as President Trump's handling of the issue - when they consider the annual defense policy bill Wednesday.In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said he expects to offer an amendment with House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) that would, among other things, require the administration provide Congress information about any bounty program and Russia's involvement in it.
"We took this seriously, we handled it appropriately."
Pompeo said the U.S. has told Russia for over a decade to "stop" selling small arms in Afghanistan that put Americans at risk.
Pompeo defended the administration's record on Russia, saying that the Department of Defense has $7 billion in resources countering threats from Moscow, pointed to the U.S. push for an updated and modern arms control treating following withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia and that the U.S. has pushback against Russia in Syria.
On Trump's offer to invite the Russians to the upcoming, high-level G7 meeting - from which Russia was kicked out for annexing Crimea in 2014 - Pompeo said that "we need to talk to the Russians" and that the decision rests with the president.
"When they were in this, they were causing problems. Out of it and they still continue to present risks to us," he said, adding that it was "really critical" to continue engaging with the Russians.
Pompeo says he frequently discusses Afghanistan with Russia amid questions about bounty reports
Pompeo's comments come after The New York Times reported that a U.S. intelligence assessment said Russia offered bounties to target and kill American troops in Afghanistan. "We've taken the threat and the president's taken the threat to our forces in Afghanistan incredibly serious throughout the entire duration of this administration," said Pompeo. © Provided by CNBC U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 1, 2020.
He further said the president takes seriously any threats to American forces.
"This president has been vicious in securing American freedom and protecting American soldiers," he said.
Intelligence officials in recent days have offered rare public statements questioning the integrity of the reports about the bounties. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a statement that the agency is "still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting..."
Republican lawmakers who received briefings from the DNIwere "inaccurate" or based on "unverified" intelligence.
Democratsas troubling and call for more efforts to verify the reports.
Video: Frank Figliuzzi on Russia bounty plot: Putin has gotten ‘zero pushback’ from Trump (MSNBC)
Pompeo called before House panel over Russian bounty claims .
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has invited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to appear before a hearing on how the Trump administration responded to reports that U.S. intelligence was aware of Russia offering bounties to Taliban-backed fighters to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan. The hearing is set to take place on Thursday. It is titled "Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops: Why Hasn't the Administration Responded?"Pompeo is listed as "The hearing is set to take place on Thursday. It is titled "Russian Bounties on U.S.