While Democrats and other Trump critics, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, accept as fact the uncorroborated claims that the Russians paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill Americans, the top U.S. general in the region, still isn’t convinced.
Despite this lack of corroboration, Biden has shamelessly cited Russian bounties in his attacks on President Trump.
Even as the administration digs deeper into the matter, President Trump and his advisors have repeatedly stated that the intelligence provided to the White House has not been conclusive enough to merit action.
Top U.S. military leaders still agree.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) responsible for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, recently told NBC News: “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” adding, “We continue to look for that evidence…I just haven’t seen it yet.”
But it isn’t only General McKenzie. As NBC News notes, this “consensus view among military leaders, underscores the lack of certainty around a narrative that has been accepted as fact by Democrats and other Trump critics.”
So, it isn’t just McKenzie, or General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who doubt the veracity of the “Russian Bounties” stories – it is the “consensus view” among U.S. military leaders.
And these generals would certainly want proof that Russians are paying the Taliban to kill American troops. “If the Russians are trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan, General McKenzie told NBC News, “I want to know, because I won’t hesitate to take action if that’s the case. I just haven’t seen it.”
NBC News went on to report:
Echoing comments in July by Gen. Mark Milley… McKenzie said that if he could establish that the Russians were offering payments to kill Americans, he would push to forcefully respond. But the intelligence is far from conclusive, he said.
A U.S. military official familiar with the intelligence added that after a review of the intelligence around each attack against Americans going back several years, none have been tied to any Russian incentive payments.
While earlier in the process senior military commanders were not privy to all related intelligence from the CIA, they have seen it all now. NBC News notes that after The New York Times reported on the alleged bounty program, “senior military officials have had a chance to examine all the intelligence.”
In July, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the House Armed Services that, “All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report.”
“As of today, right now, we don’t have cause and effect linkages to a Russian bounty program causing U.S. military casualties,” Milley told the same committee. “However, we are still looking. We’re not done. We’re going to run this thing to ground.”
Two months later, despite all the best efforts of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and the Pentagon, those “linkages” have yet to be found.
“People that are involved in it get very emotional about it,” McKenzie added to NBC News. “I can’t afford to be emotional about it. I’ve got to step back and look at the totality of the picture.”
The totality of that picture still seems to show that Trump’s assessment that the “Russian Bounty” intelligence was inconclusive was correct, and Biden, Democrats, and the media should be ashamed to keep saying otherwise.