The latest Russia-related Trump scandal being touted by the media concerns alleged bounties offered to terrorists in Afghanistan for attacks on NATO forces. Supposedly, U.S intelligence concluded that Russia offered such payments, and the New York Times says that Trump was briefed about it. The White House denies that Trump was briefed.
If our intelligence community really concluded that Russia was offering terrorists bounties for killing Americans (and troops allied with us), it’s difficult to believe it didn’t let Trump know. But I wonder whether U.S. intelligence actually reached this conclusion.
The Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan have all the incentive they need to kill Americans without the promise of Russian bounties. And to the extent that the Taliban might not want to kill Americans during a period in which it is negotiating our exit from Afghanistan, it’s not evident that bounties would cause the Taliban to alter this policy.
But even if offering bounties might marginally increased the number of Americans killed by terrorists, would the risk to Russia if the bounties were exposed outweigh that potential reward? Probably not.
I don’t mean to deny the possibility that Russia offered bounties or, more to the point, that there are reports that it did. But at this stage, we should be skeptical that Russia actually offered bounties and, more to the point, that our intelligence community concluded that Russia did.
It seems at least as likely that the intelligence community considered the question without reaching a firm conclusion that Russia offered bounties. If so, it makes sense that it didn’t brief the president.
But would Trump do nothing in response to a report from the intelligence community that Russia subsidized the killing of U.S. troops? That’s what the mainstream media wants us to believe, and Joe Biden has already adopted this line. But it will take more than reports in anti-Trump organs like the New York Times, based on unidentified sources, to sell the line to me.