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U.S. Commander Says No American Deaths Linked To Russia Bounty Killing Scheme
MOSCOW REGION, RUSSIA - JULY 2, 2020: Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a video conference meeting of the Pobeda [Victory] Russian Organizing Committee at Novo-Ogaryovo residence. Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei DruzhininTASS via Getty Images)
Alexei DruzhininTASS via Getty Images

A top United States military official says that a plot by Moscow to pay Taliban insurgents to kill American soldiers and others has not resulted in any American deaths.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, who heads U.S. Central Command, confirmed the existence of intelligence that indicates Russia offered to pay the Taliban, a Middle East terror group, to kill U.S. military members. The U.S. officer said that the plot has not been connected with any U.S. casualties, however.

“I found it very worrisome,” McKenzie said of the intelligence, according to The Associated Press. “I didn’t find that there was a causative link there.”

“We should always remember, the Russians are not our friends,” McKenzie said while noting that Moscow has supplied the Taliban with money and weapons for years. “And they do not wish us well, and we just need to remember that at all times when we evaluate that intelligence.”

As for the Taliban, “whether the Russians are paying the Taliban or not, over the past several years, the Taliban have done their level best to carry out operations against us,” the general added.

The Russian bounty scheme was allegedly orchestrated as the United States tries to negotiate a peace deal between Taliban leaders and the Afghanistan government. President Trump has pushed for such a treaty to be put in place before U.S. forces are pulled out of Afghanistan.

The bounty scheme, while it may not have had a measurable impact on the ground in Afghanistan, is causing a stir in Washington.

The New York Times reported on June 26 that President Trump was briefed on the bounty operation months ago, sparking criticism that the president knew of the Russian effort to kill U.S. troops and did not respond. The New York Times backed off the claim that Trump had knowledge of the scheme days later, reporting that intelligence on the Russian operation had been included in a Feb. 27 written briefing, and that it is unclear whether the president received a verbal briefing on the intelligence, according to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Trump and other top administration officials have denied that the president had any knowledge of the Russian bounty scheme.

“The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!” Trump tweeted on June 1.

“Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level,” Trump said in a follow-up post an hour later.

The Russian government has also denied the existence of such an operation. Experts on Russia and Moscow’s inner workings say that such a plan would likely have not received approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin, though lower level officials could have pushed the bounty operation forward, according to The New York Times.

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