Washington (dpa) – US President Donald Trump has rejected explosive media reports about alleged Russian bounty on US soldiers in Afghanistan.
“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 on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Trump likes to call government-critical media such as the “New York Times” pejorative “fake news“.
“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.
The background to this is media reports that Russian agents have promised Taliban militant Islamists in Afghanistan money for attacks on US soldiers. They relied on intelligence information. The New York Times and other newspapers also reported that Trump was informed of this information earlier in the year, including in writing.
The White House vehemently rejects this, but, like the Ministry of Defense, has indirectly confirmed that the relevant information exists. But there are different opinions among the secret services about their credibility.
How much the President knew is relevant because the U.S. government’s actions against Moscow are unknown. A few weeks ago, Trump had expressed the idea of inviting Russia to the upcoming G7 summit in the United States. For years, critics have accused the US President of taking a far too reserved and even courteous line towards Russia. However, Trump has imposed sanctions against Russia, among other things to prevent the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported larger financial transfers that could be related to the affair. It was intercepted data from transfers of a bank account controlled by Russian military intelligence to an account linked to the Taliban – the newspaper referred to three unnamed officials from intelligence circles. In their view, this supports the assumption that Russia could have secretly offered bounties for the killing of US troops in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, on the other hand, affirmed that his home had no “supporting evidence” to support intelligence agencies. “I want to assure all of our military personnel that the Department takes all potential threats to U.S. military personnel very seriously,” Esper tweeted Tuesday night (local time).
In connection with the bounty thesis, among other things, a car bomb attack in April 2019 is mentioned, in which three marines are said to have been killed. According to the Washington Post, the CIA had investigated and “confirmed” information about the Russian bounty. The Kremlin calls the media reports a “lie”.