US President Trump has told “Axios on HBO” in an interview on Tuesday he has never confronted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin with intelligence findings indicating that Russia paid the Taliban bounties to kill US troops.
Trump said that he was not told about the Russian bounty suspicions because intelligence officials did not think the information was real.
“It never reached my desk,” Trump said, in the interview.
Trump spoke with Putin on Thursday, but, referring to the bounties, said: “I have never discussed it with him.”
On July 1, a New York Times article citing three anonymous American officials said US intelligence monitored electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, which the Times offers as evidence potentially supporting allegations that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The New York Times article said: “Afghan officials this week described a sequence of events that dovetailed with the account of the intelligence. They said that several businessmen who transfer money through the informal ‘hawala’ system were arrested in Afghanistan over the past six months and were suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen who operated between the Russian intelligence agency, known as the G.R.U., and Taliban-linked militants. The businessmen were arrested in what the officials described as sweeping raids in the north of Afghanistan as well as in Kabul.”
The Times article also reads: “The Times reported last week that intelligence officials believed that a unit of the G.R.U. had offered and paid bounties for killing American troops and other coalition forces and that the White House had not authorized a response after the National Security Council convened an interagency meeting about the problem in late March.
The Taliban and Russia have rejected the allegations.
A day after the report, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said: “The fact that the Russians are engaged in Afghanistan in a way that’s adverse to the United States is nothing new.”
Pompeo also said that US President Donald Trump has been consistently aware of the challenges that Russia presents to the US and he is aware of the risk in Afghanistan.