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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly warned Russia’s foreign minister last month about alleged bounty payments that Russia offered Taliban militants to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Pompeo warned Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov against placing bounties on the heads of American soldiers during a July 13 phone call, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials. The phone call was officially about a separate topic, the possibility of meeting between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, two of which are the U.S. and Russia along with China, France, and Britain.
The secretary of state expressed Washington’s intense opposition to the bounty program but spoke in terms of payouts and red lines and did not speak about the specific intelligence indicating that Russia paid Taliban fighters and other Afghanistan militants to kill U.S. service members.
Reports broke in June that U.S. intelligence found that at least one American soldier, as well as a number of Afghan civilians, died as a result of the secret bounty payments.
Intelligence about the alleged bounty offerings by Russia was reportedly included in the president’s daily written intelligence briefing in February, but the White House claims Trump was not verbally briefed on the matter until the New York Times’s June 26 report on the issue. The Times reported that some bounties as high as $100,000 were paid for each U.S. or allied troop killed. The Washington Post said in a similar report that several American service-members died as a result of monetary rewards that a Russian military intelligence unit offered to terrorist militants to target U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
Last month, President Trump said he has never discussed the intelligence with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite several phone calls between the two heads of state since the intelligence was made known.
“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said during an interview with “Axios on HBO.”