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US defense head says he wasn't briefed on Russia bounty

'If it was credible report, it would have been brought to my attention by the chain of command,' says defense secretary

Beyza Binnur Dönmez   | 10.07.2020
US defense head says he wasn't briefed on Russia bounty Defense Secretary Mark Esper

ANKARA

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday that he was not briefed on the reported Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. 

"To the best of my recollection I have not received a briefing that included the word bounty," Esper testified before the House Armed Services Committee.  

"If it was a credible report, that’s important, a credible corroborated report that used those words, certainly, it would have been brought to my attention by the chain of command, by the chairman of the joint chiefs and others, for action. We would have taken upon that action an inter-agency effort to make sure we addressed it," he added.

Asked where the intelligence came from, the defense chief said the origins of the bounty allegations have no link with the Department of Defense (DoD). 

"It was not produced by a DoD intelligence agency," said Esper.

Late June, President Donald Trump denied allegations by saying "neither [Vice President Mike] Pence nor Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, have been told "about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes."  

The White House also rejected the report and said there is "no consensus" within the intelligence community regarding the matter and reiterated that neither Trump nor Pence was briefed on the alleged rewards by Russia.

The New York Times reported that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces, including American troops in Afghanistan.  

The Times said that Trump and the White House National Security Council gathered in late March to discuss the matter and weighed several responses, including a diplomatic complaint to Moscow demanding an end to the practice and escalating a series of sanctions.

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