US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for sanctions on Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors after a briefing on reported Russian payments to Taliban militants to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Her remarks came after the Department of Defense (DOD) Monday reiterated that there was no strong proof that Russia had incentivized Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said DOD could not validate reports that Russians offered Taliban militants bounty for killing foreign troops in the war-torn country.
“The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
According to the New York Times on Friday, US President Donald Trump had also claimed that he was not briefed on any reports that Russians offered Taliban militants bounty.
However, Pelosi on Thursday accused the White House of "putting on a con" in saying Trump was not briefed on the intelligence because it was not fully verified.
She also criticized him for his failing to read a written briefing on the issue and to seek to improve ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite US intelligence suggesting Russia was allegedly working to kill US and allied soldiers.
“We had a strong bipartisan bill that was to be sent to the president but the White House said they wanted us to take out the sanctions on Russia that pertained to the intelligence and the defense sectors, the very sector that is accused of possible threats on our men and women in uniform,” Pelosi told reporters after a briefing of the "Gang of Eight" congressional and intelligence committee leaders.
“We must restore those sanctions and we must act upon them,” she added, but did not provide any details about what legislation she was referring to.
Meanwhile, a senior Trump administration official said the White House did not want to immediately respond to the intelligence reports because “the intelligence remains uncorroborated and unverified and there are dissenting viewpoints within the community.”
According to four US and European government sources, who are familiar with intelligence reporting, the US had acquired fresh reporting in recent weeks which back up the allegations that Russia had encouraged Taliban-affiliated militants to kill US and allied soldiers in Afghanistan.
Russia's Foreign Ministry had dismissed the allegations, with its embassy in the US saying the claims had led to threats against diplomats. The embassy also accused the Times of promoting fake news.
The Taliban likewise denied having had any deal with Russian intelligence.