March 01, 2021

Duckworth urges Biden admin to release intel on Russian bounties

Source: Politico


Sen. Tammy Duckworth is urging President Joe Biden's administration to declassify and release intelligence regarding Russia's alleged offer of bounties to the Taliban to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Illinois Democrat, in a letter sent Monday and obtained by POLITICO, asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to release a declassified public assessment on the intelligence community's review of the allegation.

"While any intelligence assessment on this matter is understandably sensitive, the American public, and Gold Star Families in particular, have a pressing need to know if there is any truth to these claims," Duckworth wrote. "I believe such a finding may be presented while protecting classified information."

The allegations that the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to target U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan was first reported by The New York Times in June.

Then-President Donald Trump initially called the report a "hoax." He said intelligence officials told him he was not briefed about those allegations at the time because they did not find them credible. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in September the intel still hadn't been corroborated.

In the March 1 letter, Duckworth pointed to public reports showing possible evidence that GRU bounty offers had been made, may have resulted in payments and may have "inspired or incentivized" deadly attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.

She went on to criticize the Trump administration for failing to provide an official response to basic questions about the assessment of the allegations, or whether any corroborating evidence was found.

Duckworth applauded Biden for tasking Haines with reviewing alleged Russian activity, including the bounties program. Once this review is complete, Duckworth requests that the DNI prepare an unclassified assessment "that will provide urgently needed transparency on this grave matter."

"I urge you to take action where the prior administration failed," Duckworth wrote.

In December, then-national security adviser Robert O'Brien briefed Trump on similar allegations involving Chinese operatives. However, rumors that China secretly offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill U.S. troops were considered even less credible than the information on the Russian bounties, former and current defense officials told POLITICO.

By:  Lara Seligman