Pompeo defended administration’s reaction to reports of Russian payments to Taliban
Pompeo defends response to Russian bounty reports
The secretary of state noted that his Russian counterpart Lavrov, in a telephone conversation, denied that Russia was engaged in such activities.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed the administration’s response to reports that Russian military intelligence allegedly paid rewards to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan for killing American soldiers.
«This story, as told, does not reflect exactly what happened., – said Pompeo, speaking at the Economic Club of New York. – I believe that the administration responded to the situation in a completely appropriate way.».
First reported by the New York Times, awards allegations dismissed by the Trump administration as unconfirmed.
US intelligence officials told Congress that the president was not informed of these allegations because CIA analysts deemed them unconfirmed..
However, Pompeo acknowledged that, as with any war, there are risks to US troops in Afghanistan and that the administration is doing everything it can to mitigate them..
«The information we received was directed to the right people to keep our soldiers, sailors and pilots safe, – said the secretary of state. – They were notified of the various risks that not only Russia, but others pose, so that our configuration of forces is correct.».
Pompeo’s announcement comes after the Pentagon announced that the United States had abandoned five military bases in Afghanistan and reduced the number of troops in that country as part of an agreement with the Taliban reached earlier this year..
«The size of the American forces in Afghanistan remains at about eight and a half thousand, and the five bases that were previously occupied by the American forces have been transferred to our Afghan partners.», – said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
He did not specify what bases in question.
In late February, the US and the Taliban signed a historic agreement containing a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, their allies and coalition partners..
Pompeo noted that the security of the remaining US troops in Afghanistan is highly dependent on the implementation of this agreement..
«The President has clearly outlined the goal that he set for his Secretary of State, and we continue to work to get intra-Afghan negotiations to begin so that we can begin to reduce the risks to our young men and women who are in Afghanistan today.», – he said.
The Secretary of State noted that he discussed the Afghan topic with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, by phone on Monday.
«When I spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Monday, I reminded him of his commitment. As well as publicly, he privately denied that they were involved in such activities.», – said Pompeo.
«We made it clear to our Russian colleagues that we must join forces to make Afghanistan more sovereign, more independent and peaceful., – he said in an interview with The Hill newspaper. – We believe that this is in the interests of Russia, in the interests of China, we know that this is in the interests of the Afghan people.».
He recalled that the history of relations between Afghanistan and Russia was long «and not always good for Russia».
«We understand that Russia used henchmen around the world, and that there are risks that they will use henchmen in Afghanistan for unscrupulous purposes, – he added. – We are doing everything we can to ensure that intelligence is collected properly. For us to respond to threats from outside actors, be they Iranians, Russians, Pakistanis or other non-state actors, who funded the Taliban, putting Americans in danger».
The Secretary of State did not go into details