Trump Keeps Claiming Russian Bounties 'Unverified.' We Do Not Think It Means What He Thinks It Means.
The White House would like you to believe that America's intelligence agencies are so incompetent that they couldn't "verify" the Russian bounty payments to kill American troops, when half of Afghanistan knew about it a year ago. The New York Times needed just five days to track down the guy handing out Russian cash, but somehow the CIA and military couldn't work it out for two straight years. That is really the story they're going with here. Because Donald Trump is stupid, and the people around him know he's stupid, and they're desperately hoping that you are also stupid and will believe any stupid nonsense they put out there.
"We always act in the best interest of our troops, but this is unverified still at this very moment," White House Liar Kayleigh McEnany told reporters yesterday, even as National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien was briefing congress on GRU wires of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to Taliban agents.
Here on Planet Earth, American intelligence agencies have known for more than a year about Putin's bounty scheme. As the Times reported Tuesday, US officials spotted cash flowing into Afghanistan from Unit 29155 of the GRU, i.e. the same guys who sent assassins to smear nerve agent on Sergei Skripal's doorknob in England. That's how they knew which house in Kabul to raid six months ago to find $500,000 in cash. Which seems like pretty decent verification, TBQH!
And presumably the Times was able to "verify" it, too, simply by asking its local contacts, "Hey, whose house got raided like six months ago by a whole squad of Americans and Afghanis with big guns?"
Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.
As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.
It's convenient for the White House to pretend that the NSA's apparent reservations about the intelligence back in 2019 (when John Bolton says he told the president), before we spotted the money transfers and conducted the raid, somehow condemn it permanently to the status of unverified chatter. But since linear time exists, we'll point out that a raid six months ago took place before the Russian bounty program appeared in the Presidential Daily Briefing on February 27. So if Trump could be bothered to read his intel, he'd have heard about Rahmatullah Azizi's giant pile of cash and flight to Russia four whole months back.
But he didn't, and no one in Trumpland could be bothered to point out to Trump that it was no longer just "chatter" that his good pal Vlad was paying for American scalps. So rather than risk pissing the old man off, they just kept it to themselves and did NOTHING.
The Times reports that Russia was offering up to $100,000 for each American or coalition death, as Russia sought to bleed the western alliance and weaken its resolve to stay in Afghanistan. And with Trump conspicuously eying the exit, Russia was keen to bolster its alliance with the Taliban, who will take over when we finally declare victory and go home. Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective, but hardly aligns with Trump's promises of America finally getting respect on the international stage.
And speaking of people who want us dead, Business Insider (which is killing it lately!) reports that Iranian and Pakistani groups were also vying to pay for American scalps. A former Taliban fighter told BI that "he was regularly approached by Iran and the specially designated terrorist organization run by the Haqqani family out of northern Pakistan. He said it was well-known that groups in need of money could work with Russians."
Moulani Baghdadi, a current Taliban commander in Ghazni province, admitted through an intermediary that his organization relies on Russian support.
"In the last five years the Islamic Emirate has greatly expanded in Kunduz and Mazar because individual commanders have been receiving money and weapons from Russian intelligence," he told BI. "These are criminal groups that work alongside the Mujahideen and give us a bad reputation with many people because they sell drugs and commit crimes and work with [foreigners]."
Leaving aside the implication that the "irresponsible" Talibanis are ruining it for the "good guys," if everybody in the country knew about the Russian bounty scheme, then it's hardly an "unverified" secret. And the White House can jump up and down shouting that the New York Times is a DAMN DIRTY LIAR, but it's just going to provoke 17 more news cycles of pissed off revelations from the Times and every other news outlet chasing it trying to catch up.
So, of course, that's exactly what they're doing.
“No corroborating evidence to back reports.” Department of Defense. Do people still not understand that this is all… https://t.co/PQT9mvu4kQ— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1593605246.0
Donald Trump is a fucking lunatic who doesn't give a damn about American troops. Verified.
Follow Liz Dye on Twitter RIGHT HERE!
Please click here to support your Wonkette. And if you're ordering your quarantine goods on Amazon, this is the link to do it.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.