Washington Post: Russian bounties to Taliban fighters believed to result in deaths of US troops, intelligence assessments show

The top US general says Russian intelligence “did not prove” but “proved enough to worry me”

“It simply came to our notice then. It turned out to be enough to worry me. It didn’t turn out well enough that I would take it to court. That often applies to intelligence on the battlefield, “said General Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, to a small group of journalists as he traveled to the area, according to a copy provided by the Department of Defense.

His comments mark the first time a Pentagon official has answered questions about US intelligence that said there was an attempt by a Russian military intelligence unit to pay the Taliban to kill US soldiers.

Russian intelligence officials for the GRU, a military intelligence unit, offered money to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as a reward if they killed US or British troops there, a European intelligence official told CNN last month.

The official was not clear about the exact Russian motive, but said the motives were, in his estimation, to lead to coalition losses. The official did not specify the date of the accidents, their number or nationality or whether they were deaths or injuries.

McKenzie said on Tuesday, “I’m very familiar with this material and I’m a theater director and I had a chance to look at it. I found it very disturbing.”

“I just didn’t find that there was a causal link. I was worried and we are taking extreme measures to protect violence in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said, adding that he was not convinced that Russia’s generosity program was directly responsible for the deaths.

“You see a lot of indicators. A lot of them are worried, a lot of you are acting. But in that case, there wasn’t enough of it. I sent intelligence people to keep digging it. And I think they’re still digging now,” he added.

The general’s comments come as President Donald Trump continues to raise doubts about the information, referring to it as a farce.

Trump wrote on Twitter last month that “there have not been many attacks” on US troops by Taliban fighters as proof that the intelligence may be “false.”

McKenzie warned Tuesday that the United States “must always remember that the Russians are not our friends. They are not our friends. And they are not our friends in Afghanistan. And they do not wish us well.”

“And we just have to remember it at all times when we’re evaluating that intelligence.”

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