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U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs

07/01/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/01/2020 14:59

Foreign Affairs Democrats Demand Answers from Pompeo on the Administration’s Complicity in Putin’s Scheme to Kill American Servicemembers in Afghanistan

Top Lawmakers Condemn President Trump's Failure to Respond to Russian Military Officials Placing Bounties on U.S. Troops

Washington- Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today led all Democratic committee members in demanding answers from the Trump Administration on what it knew about the Russian plot to provide payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and NATO coalition forces. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the lawmakers denounced the Administration's failure to protect the lives of Americans and called for a State Department briefing to fully inform Congress about the Administration's knowledge of and response to these threats.

'These reports detail an astounding escalation by an already aggressive adversary and the President's dereliction of his most sacred responsibility to protect the lives of the American people…. President Trump's failure to act not only allowed Russia to directly undermine the Administration's peace framework in Afghanistan, but reportedly led to the deaths of American and allied forces in Afghanistan and presumably heightened the risk to countless more Americans. Instead of responding to this Russian aggression with punitive actions, the Administration's actions towards Russia contemporaneously handed President Putin several key policy and military victories,' the members wrote.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We are gravely concerned by recent reports indicating that Russian military intelligence officials offered Taliban-linked militants bounties in exchange for killing American and other NATO coalition forces and by the startling revelation that President Trump has not acted despite the White House being aware of this scheme for months. If true, these reports detail an astounding escalation by an already aggressive adversary and the President's dereliction of his most sacred responsibility to protect the lives of the American people. The United States cannot meet Russia's aggression with accommodation - it must strongly respond to such actions with the diplomatic, financial, and other tools at the Administration's disposal.

The Government of Russia, particularly under President Putin, has a long history of using proxy actors to wage war or spread its malign influence throughout Europe and the Middle East. In addition, according to the public reporting about our own intelligence community's assessments, the Russian actors responsible for the bounties - the GRU's Unit 29155 - are the same actors that have waged widespread disinformation campaigns throughout Europe and the United States. The GRU is also responsible for targeting its defectors, dissidents, political opponents, and other political actors in Europe that the Kremlin believes are obstacles to its hostile interests.

It is precisely for these reasons that we were equally shocked to hear reports that the White House was fully informed of the Russian bounty scheme as far back as 2019 and thus far President Trump has done nothing to prevent President Putin from killing our servicemembers. President Trump's failure to act not only allowed Russia to directly undermine the Administration's peace framework in Afghanistan, but reportedly led to the deaths of American and allied forces in Afghanistan and presumably heightened the risk to countless more Americans.

Instead of responding to this Russian aggression with punitive actions, the Administration's actions towards Russia contemporaneously handed President Putin several key policy and military victories. Specifically, he directed the United States to purchase faulty Russian ventilators; provided Russia with critically needed American ventilators; withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty; pushed to reintroduce Russia to the Group of Eight despite its continued hostilities in Ukraine, Georgia, Libya, and Syria; and announced the gutting of the United States conventional deterrent in Europe through a drawdown of forces in Germany.

Russia's unconscionable act of placing financial rewards on the lives of American troops cannot go unanswered by the United States government. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have called on the Administration for answers, to protect U.S. interests and, more importantly, the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend American interests. We ask that you immediately share with the Congress all information that the Department has on these reports including the timeline of when this information became available and to whom it was provided, and to urge President Trump to finally stand up to President Putin. If the White House chooses not to act, then Congress will.

Sincerely,

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