Afghanistan: Putin benefits from the bounty affair

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IIn the affair of possible Russian bounties to the Taliban for the killing of American and Allied soldiers in Afghanistan, the US Democrats have increased the pressure on US President Donald Trump and the secret services. The prospective Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Trump’s entire presidency was a “gift to Putin.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked intelligence coordinator John Ratcliffe and CIA director Gina Haspel for a briefing in Congress. “Congress and the country now need answers. I therefore urge all members of the House of Representatives to be informed immediately, ”wrote Pelosi in a letter to Ratcliffe and Haspel. Pelosi had spoken to both on Monday.

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There were “many serious questions” about what the White House was doing to ward off threats to American and Allied troops and hold Russia accountable, Pelosi said. The media reports on the bounties are “worrying”. Several American newspapers, citing intelligence information, previously reported that Russian agents had promised Taliban militant Islamists money to attack US positions.

The rewards were promised for the killing of foreign soldiers, including British. The Kremlin called the allegations “one hundred percent baloney”, and the Taliban denied entanglements with the Russians. The Pentagon said last Tuesday that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations against Russia.

The White House is unusually defensive

Trump was informed of the danger in writing at the end of February, the New York Times reported on Monday evening, citing two US intelligence sources. However, the president had rejected this. American intelligence agencies are now investigating a car bombing in April 2019 that killed three American soldiers.

Trump’s spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany initially affirmed the President’s statement on Monday that he had not been informed. The White House was unusually defensive on the matter. For over 24 hours, the Trump administration has not commented on the report released on Saturday. And the president, who otherwise comments on banalities quite quickly on Twitter, let a day pass until a reaction. On Sunday, he said that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence had been informed of the “so-called attacks on our soldiers”.

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Trump attacked the “New York Times” as usual as “fake news” and speculated on Twitter that the report may have been a new “hoax”. McEnany emphasized on Monday as a prayer wheel that the president would be informed of intelligence information if it were classified as credible. On Tuesday, however, his spokesman suddenly turned around and declared that Trump had been informed of the findings. The Presidential Office initially left open whether he received a written communication and read it.

On Wednesday, Trump then spoke up again – of course on Twitter. “The story of Russia’s bounty is just another story made up by fake news that is only told to harm me and the Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “The secret source may not even exist, just like the story itself,” Trump continued to tweet. He asked the New York Times to disclose its sources. “Just another duck!” A little later, he added that he had not been informed of the matter because the possible information from the secret services had not been backed up by further knowledge.

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The possibility that Trump ignored or overlooked the threat to American troops could reduce his chances of re-election in early November. Biden said that if the President had been informed and had not acted, it would be a breach of duty. Particularly spicy: Trump had warned his predecessor Barack Obama in 2014 not to read the secret service briefings.

Trump is consistently claimed to have no interest in the relevant information. Among the members of the secret services, Trump is often stunned, at least since he verbally “cuddled” with Vladimir Putin at a 2018 US-Russia summit in Helsinki. At the time, Putin denied any interference by Russia in the 2016 US presidential election. Trump then called this denial “extremely strong and powerful”. He trusted Putin. However, interference by the Kremlin has been proven, according to American intelligence agencies. However, Trump’s people could not be proven to be conspiring.

Republicans are growing nervous

The pressure on Trump to clarify the bounty issue is now high. The new reports are extremely inconvenient for the US President. Four months before the presidential election, corona infections are rising dramatically, the most violent recession since the Great Depression is looming, and polls are miserable. Therefore, nervousness can now be felt in our own ranks. The government has to take the bullying allegations seriously and to inform Congress of the state of affairs, said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a confidant and Trump’s golf partner.

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One should definitely be satisfied – regardless of whether there is anything wrong with the allegations or not: The Kremlin. Because the burgeoning domestic political debate could delay the American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Although Moscow officially welcomed the planned departure, there is concern behind the scenes.

The Taliban are not a homogeneous force, any agreement with them threatens to fail, wrote Afghanistan expert Andrey Kazantsev of the diplomatic elite university MGIMO. A quick withdrawal could provoke a new civil war, which would jeopardize the security of the neighboring Central Asian republics. Russia maintains open borders with them, which is why any new risk for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also becomes a problem for Moscow.

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