House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith on Tuesday said there was “clearly evidence” that Russian intelligence officers had placed bounties on U.S. and coalition soldiers.
His comments come hours after top Democratic lawmakers, including Mr. Smith, were briefed at the White House on reports that Russia had placed bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. They were briefed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.
The Washington State Democrat told reporters on a phone call Tuesday morning that there was evidence presented that “the Russian government was paying bounties to Afghans to attack coalition partners, not just Americans.”
Mr. Smith said that while intelligence officials did not dispute that there is some evidence supporting the reported bounties, they also maintained that intelligence exists disputing the matter.
The Defense Department has also been informed of the allegations, and the Pentagon has taken “appropriate action” of informing force protection but has not found the reports to be credible, Mr. Smith said.
The chairman explained that while there are still answers surrounding the reports and evidence presented by the intelligence community, “there was clearly evidence that the Russians were paying the bounties as described.”
“The clear message that we got at the White House meeting this morning was that there is conflicting intelligence, and there are conflicting opinions within the intel community and within White House senior staff about how accurate the reporting that was in The New York Times about Russian bounties,” Mr. Smith continued.
The publication reported Friday that U.S. intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence agents had offered the bounties to militants linked to the Taliban. The paper said President Trump was briefed on the matter and that the National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March. Mr. Trump has since denied that he was briefed.
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