July 10 (UPI) — The United States’ top general told Congress that they are working to corroborate reports Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and that they will act if the reports are confirmed.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers on Thursday. “We’re going to find out if in fact it’s true and if it is true we will take action.”
Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who has done three tours in Afghanistan, testified before the House armed services committee Thursday with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper about reports first published late June by The New York Times that said Russia offered to pay Taliban fighters for U.S. troop kills in the Middle Eastern country.
Milley told the lawmakers that they are looking to corroborate the intelligence those reports are based on.
“That is a unique, discreet piece of information that is not corroborated,” he said.
Esper added that none of the defense intelligence agencies have been able to corroborate the report but they take “all reports seriously regardless of the degree of credibility or confidence.”
He also said he first saw the intelligence report in February but he did not recall seeing any intelligence with the word “bounty” on it but if there was a credible, corroborated report that used that language it would have been brought to his attention for action.
Asked what action was taken, Milley said there was no military mission such as a raid warranted by the intelligence but force protection is at its highest level in Afghanistan where several countries, including Russia, are “influencing actors” with training, money, weapons, propaganda and other forms of support.
“Russia is one of those countries and they’ve been doing for years … through the Taliban” and other groups, he said, adding that regardless of who is providing the resources “our force protection levels are at the highest levels and they are going to stay there.”
There is no specific action they should be pursuing, he said, as the issue is at the “strategic level,” stating perhaps they aren’t doing as much as they should but it is incorrect to think they are not doing anything.