[Please read the added CODA at bottom]
Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say.
A small-time businessman became a key middleman for bounties on coalition troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence reports say. Friends saw him grow rich, but didn’t know how.
Latest Responses by the Trump Administration:
Russian involvement against U.S. interests in Afghanistan is “nothing new.” Without referring specifically to the bounty report, Pompeo said he brings up Afghanistan “with great frequency” in talks with his Russian counterparts.
His message to them, he said, is “Stop this.”
And Trump? “[He] is not convinced he should do anything about the bounty issue, which he decried in a Wednesday morning tweet as ‘just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party.’”
Less than a week ago, as the pandemic took an ominous sharp turn for the worse, as tens of thousands more Americans became infected and thousands more died, as the so-called president continued to ignore the crisis, the dead and the dying, and just as Americans thought things could not get worse…they did.
It was when The New York Times, followed by a wide array of media outlets, published a damning initial report on a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
On this blog, we reported some of those initial details. Details that could not be sugarcoated and details that, we believed, “cannot and will not be swept under the rug by Republicans.”
A plot which, according to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January.
A plot that has been under discussion inside the Trump administration since at least March.
A plot that, according to one official, was briefed to “the highest levels of the White House,” and which another official said “was included in the President’s Daily Brief…”
A plot Trump has denied ever having been “briefed or told” about.
Since then, additional information has emerged corroborating the initial reports and, sadly, confirming the dishonesty, incompetence, dereliction of duty and shameful contempt for the safety of our troops – men and women whom this president professes to love.
This is what we now know, three days later:
Large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account bolster analysts’ conclusions that “Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan…” according to the New York Times.
The Times adds that Afghan officials this week described a sequence of events that dovetailed with the account of the intelligence.
Trump, his White House press secretary, and other loyalists have repeatedly claimed that the intelligence was too uncertain, “not credible.” That because of this it was not “elevated” to Trump.
Military, intelligence and former government officials, however, say that such critical reports, regardless of levels of uncertainty, normally reach the president.
The so-called president himself has pooh-poohed the intelligence assessment as “so-called,” even denied that he was ever “briefed or told” about the Russian plot and called the whole story a “made up Fake News Media Hoax.”
If the information was not “elevated” to Trump’s level, a more plausible explanation is the one provided by the Washington Post: “…information is sometimes withheld from Trump, who often reacts badly to reports that he thinks might undermine what he considers his good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
President Donald Trump’s resistance to intelligence warnings about Russia led his national security team, including those who delivered the President’s Daily Brief to brief him verbally less often on Russia-related threats to the US…
More than 20 Americans have been killed in combat-related operations in Afghanistan in the last 18 months.
In April 2019, three Marines were killed when their vehicle was blown up outside Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Investigators and Intelligence analyssts are focusing on the attack, believing that the bounties probably resulted in their deaths.
The mother of one of those Marines, Mrs. Felicia Arculeo, upset to learn that her son’s death may have been the result of a Russian bounty operation, wants an investigation, saying that “the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”
Not only is that “possible,” but a thorough investigation by Congress is the least we can do for Mrs. Arculeo and the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, loved ones of any other of our troops who may have died at the hands of these despicable murderers in exchange for Russian rubles.
Will that happen? It all depends on whether Republicans can grow a spine and muster a conscience to stand up against this so-called president and to truly “support the troops.”
This piece closes with the comment that Congress must do a thorough investigation of the Russian “bounty case” for the sake of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, loved ones of any other of our troops who may have died at the hands of these Russian-paid criminals.
The phraseology was not intended to leave out the wife and three children who Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware, left behind.
In addition to being survived by his mother, step-father and father, Staff Sergeant Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania, also left behind six siblings and his fiancé.
Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York – whose mother was mentioned above – was serving with his brother in Afghanistan who escorted his body back home.
Finally, the unintended, unfortunate choice of words “bounty hunters” has been corrected, with the writer’s apologies.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.