July 09, 2020

Duckworth asks Esper whether DOD is probing links between troop deaths and Russian bounties

Source: Stars and Stripes


WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is demanding to know whether the Pentagon is investigating whether any American troops died in Afghanistan as a result of the bounties reputed to have been offered by Russia to attack them.

“It is unacceptable that to date, the Trump administration appears to be ignoring a matter of great importance to Gold Star family members whose loved ones were killed while serving in Afghanistan: were any U.S. troop casualties in Afghanistan connected with the alleged [Russian military intelligence service] bounty payments to Taliban-linked militants?,” Duckworth wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The New York Times first reported on June 26 that American intelligence officials had determined a Russian military intelligence unit secretly had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack American and coalition forces in Afghanistan and that it was believed some of the money had been collected.

Duckworth, a combat veteran, wants Esper to confirm whether the Pentagon is investigating whether any U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan were related to the Russian bounties. She also wants him to say whether the Defense Department is “tracking any concurrent or completed” intelligence community investigations into military casualties in Afghanistan. Duckworth’s letter also asks whether Esper would commit to disclosing the findings of all investigations regarding the Russian-bounties program and American casualties with Gold Star families, Congress, and the public.

By:  Caitlin M. Kenney