Pentagon Chief Esper Confirms Probe in Progress Over ‘Taliban Bounties’ Intel’s Leak to Press

US

The New York Times’ story citing ‘anonymous intelligence’ on alleged Russian cash rewards to Taliban*-linked militants for the killing of US and coalition troops in Afghanistan sparked a major scandal in Washington, prompting denials from the White House, Moscow and the Taliban itself, and demands by Democrats for new sanctions against Russia.

The Pentagon has ordered a probe investigating the leaks to media of intelligence about the so-called Afghan bounties story, Defence Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed.

“All those things hurt our national security, they undermine our troops, their safety, they affect our relations with other countries, they affect our national policy. It’s bad, and it’s happening all over the government – executive branch, legislative branch to some degree, so it’s something we need to get control of,” he added.

Commenting on the bounty allegations themselves, Esper said that “all the defence intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report.”

Asked if he personally had received any intel briefing containing the words ‘bounty’ and ‘Russians’, the defence secretary said he he could not, to the best of his recollection, recall doing so.

Since its publication in late June, the New York Times story on ‘Russian bounties’ on US servicemen’s heads in Afghanistan has sparked a major political scandal in Washington, with Democratic lawmakers almost immediately introducing…

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