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Lawmaker calls report of Russia offering bounties for U.S. troops 'unacceptable'

The New York Times reports at least one American service member died.

WASHINGTON — The New York Times says Russia plotted in 2019 to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

Citing unnamed sources, the Times says it's believed at least one U.S. military death was the result of the bounties.

President Donald J. Trump tweeted that U.S intelligence "did not find the information credible and therefore did not report it to me or Vice President Pence."

Aaron Karp is an instructor in the Department of Political Science and Geography at Old Dominion University where he teaches international relations, American foreign policy, technology and war, and weapons proliferation.

"I can't comment on the New York Times piece, except to say it looks credible," he said. "The New York Times usually gets it right. Every now and then they don't. So you have to keep a little bit of skepticism in this. But they cite a whole lot of people and they've sourced this, and a lot of people are reaffirming the basic message."

Karp continued: "To me, the big issues here are older issues, above all, we're really struggling with this basic issue of how do you deal with an emboldened Russia in the international system, a Russia that doesn't feel compelled to show any restraint that countries have shown for a long time."

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va, 1st District) is ranking member of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. In a statement Monday he said:

"The first that I, along with other Members of Congress, learned about the reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops was from the media at the same time the public did—which is unacceptable. Information on this potential national security threat has yet to be presented to the Armed Services Committee, and I call on the intelligence community to undertake a full committee briefing as soon as possible for us to determine the credibility of this intelligence and to determine the timeline of events. We need to understand why the President wasn't briefed, who knew about it and when, and what our response to Russia will be if these reports turn out credible. 

“If this intelligence is determined to be true, this is another in a long list of escalations of aggression from Russia. There is no way that the United States should tolerate such obvious acts of aggression against our nation’s forces, and we must ensure our forces are protected.”

House Armed Service Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Washington) also weighed in. In a statement Monday he said:

“Recent reports that a Russian military intelligence unit paid the Taliban to attack Americans and coalition partners is deeply concerning. The U.S. intelligence community reportedly informed the Trump administration of this assessment as early as late March. Acting on this information could have saved lives. Yet, President Trump claims he had no prior knowledge of the bounties that Russia placed on American soldiers. That excuse only gives rise to more questions. Why didn’t the President receive a briefing on such a highly sensitive subject? Was this information included in the Presidential Daily briefing? If not, why not? Was this information shared with our military leaders?

“Those who serve our country in a combat zone voluntarily put themselves in harms way. We must do everything we can to support them. If the reports are true, that the Administration knew about this Russian operation and did nothing, they have broken the trust of those who serve and the commitment to their families to ensure their loved one’s safety.

“It is imperative that the House Armed Services Committee receive detailed answers from the Department of Defense. The American people – and our service members – deserve to know the truth about what the White House knew about these Russian operations that may have directly resulted in the deaths of American service members. We must find out exactly what was known, and when it was known to hold the appropriate Administration officials and the Russian government accountable.”

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