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Pompeo says he raised Taliban 'bounties' on US troops with Russia despite Trump not doing so

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Department's 2021 budget on Capitol Hill Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP photo)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that the Trump administration has confronted top Russian diplomats and military officers over the allegations about suspected Russian bounties on coalition forces in Afghanistan, despite Donald Trump previously calling it a “Fake News tale.”

Last month, the New York Times reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered Taliban-linked militants bounties to carry out a series of attacks against coalition forces, including American troops, in Afghanistan.

The bombshell report, which was soon “confirmed” by some other newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, further claimed that US intelligence officials had also reached the conclusion about the clandestine payments and then briefed Trump in March.

The New York Times also reported that Trump had claimed that he was not briefed on any reports that Russians offered Taliban militants bounty.

The president, on the other hand, blamed the "fake news" for the allegations, calling the story a "hoax."

On Thursday, Pompeo told lawmakers, "I can assure you and the American people that each time I've spoken with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, I have raised all of the issues that put any American interests at risk, whether it's our soldiers on the ground in Syria, soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, the activities that are taking place in Libya, the actions in Ukraine."

"Each and every one of these [issues] that potentially threaten American interests are things that I raise in my conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and I speak with him with some frequency," Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump also said earlier this week he has never discussed such reports with Russian President Vladimir Putin, although he had reportedly talked with his Russian counterpart on at least eight occasions since the intelligence was reportedly included in his daily briefing.

In February, Trump’s daily written brief had in it a report that Russia might have been placing bounties on the heads of US troops, with payments of up to $100,000, according to the New York Times.

However this week, when Trump was asked about whether he had raised the issue in his most recent phone call with Putin, he said he had not.

“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said.

He later added, “I have never discussed it with him, no.”

Meanwhile, Pompeo refused to criticize Trump for not mentioning the issue with Putin, saying he would “leave it to the president what he wants to say to other leaders”.

He went on to say that "make no mistake about it, the proper people have been aware of every single threat to our soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, whether that was [General Austin S] Miller, or my team at the embassy there in Kabul," referring to the US general in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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