When then President Trump refused to be bullied by unconfirmed and unreliable press claims that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, partisans bashed Trump mercilessly. They used these claims to accuse him during the 2020 campaign of being in Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s pocket, piling on to all the other unfounded Russia collusion accusations.
However, on Thursday, the Biden administration made clear that the Intelligence Community (IC) still only has “low to moderate confidence” in its CIA intelligence on alleged Russian bounties for U.S. troops.
As Candidate Joe Biden though, he treated the unverified claims as fact during the campaign just a few short months ago. “I don’t understand why this president is unwilling to take on Putin when he’s actually paying bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan,” Biden said of President Trump during the Oct. 22 presidential debate, reported NBC News.
Trump refused to react against Russia on the unreliable reporting because his military and intelligence advisors assessed that since it was based mostly on detainee reports, without corroboration from other sources, it was not at a level of confirmation that they were comfortable with.
U.S. intelligence officials have previously been duped by unreliable detainee reporting, particularly when Ibn Shaikh al-Libi who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 advanced claims that Saddam Hussien planned to provide chemical weapons and training to Al Qaeda.
As I wrote in September, even after Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) responsible for U.S. troops in Afghanistan told NBC News that he doubted the veracity of the stories, Biden and the press continued to recklessly hound Trump on the issue.
McKenzie said: “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” adding, “We continue to look for that evidence…I just haven’t seen it yet.”
But it wasn’t only General McKenzie who had doubts. As I wrote, NBC News stated that this “consensus view among military leaders, underscores the lack of certainty around a narrative that has been accepted as fact by Democrats and other Trump critics.”
Now, the Biden administration is confirming what Trump and his supporters already knew, the reporting was likely bogus, or at least not credible enough to justify a knee jerk reaction. And Trump was right and responsible not to react.
In a National Security Council (NSC) press call with reporters Thursday, a senior Team Biden official admitted as much when he said:
The United States Intelligence Community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, including through financial incentives and compensation.
Despite this ‘low to moderate’ confidence in the reporting by the Intelligence Community, the Biden White House still cited “Reported Afghanistan Bounties” as a factor in its new sanctions against Russia on Thursday. Though it downplayed this in public statements. ADN