Top US general says not convinced Russian cash led to US deaths in Afghanistan
Iran Press TV
Wednesday, 08 July 2020 7:45 AM
A top US general says he is not convinced Russia had incentivized Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces, including American troops, in Afghanistan.
Last month, several major US news outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Associated Press reported that intelligence related to the matter indicated that Russia had offered bounty as incentive to the Taliban.
President Donald Trump, a Republican who has worked to cultivate warmer ties with Russia, said later that month that he was not briefed on any such reports.
He then blamed the "fake news" for the allegations, saying on Twitter that "the Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party."
The Pentagon also said that it had "no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports."
On Tuesday, Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, underlined the US military's caution in the most extensive remarks to date about the issue from a defense official.
"I'm very familiar with this material and I'm a theater commander and I've had an opportunity to look at it. I found it very worrisome. I just didn't find that there was a causative link there," McKenzie told reporters.
When asked about whether he believed Russian payments led to US deaths, he said, "No, I'm not convinced of that. I'm just not."
He then noted that battlefield intelligence was often inconclusive.
"But in this case, there just wasn't enough there," McKenzie said.
"I sent the intelligence guys back to continue to dig on it. And I believe they're continuing to dig right now."
Moscow had dismissed the allegations, with its embassy in the US saying the claims had led to threats against diplomats. The embassy also accused the Times of promoting fake news.
The Taliban likewise denied having had any deal with Russian intelligence.
The US military previously accused Russia of possibly supporting elements of the Taliban, by giving weapons to them among other things, with McKenzie also saying that the Russians were "not our friends in Afghanistan and they do not wish us well."
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