"When were you made aware of Russian material support for the Taliban? We all know have been killing American troops in Afghanistan for years. And what action did you take?"
2. SOUNDBITE: (English) Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense:
"Congressman, let me say on the first part, though, of your of your statement, you talked about the credibility of threats and all that. As you've heard us say, that the reports were not have not been corroborated. Nonetheless, that may (Rep. Moulton: My understanding is that some intelligence agencies believe that there is not general consensus on that, but the all the bottom line is) All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report. One of the points you made, let me say this, you may have seen my written statement that was put out on my behalf. What I said was, regardless, we do, I do, he does. The commanders take all reports seriously, regardless of the degree of credibility or confidence. And I think that's the point you were trying to make."
3. SOUNDBITE:(English) Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"It's not just Russia that there's many other countries that are influencing various actors in Afghanistan. And they are influencing them with training, money, weapons, propaganda and international support, and a lot of other things.
4. SOUNDBITE:(English) Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"Are we doing as much as we could or should? Perhaps not. Not only to the Russians, but to others. But a lot of it has been done. Some of it's quiet. Some of it's not so quiet. But don't think that we're not doing anything because that's not true. Now, I want to get to specifically to the bounty, specifically to the bounties. That is a unique, discrete piece of information that is not corroborated. You've all been briefed on it. I have to. I, and the Secretary and many others are taking it serious. We're gonna get to the bottom of it. When I find out if, in fact, it's true, and if it is true, we will take action."
Top Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that reports of Russia offering Taliban militants bounties for killing Americans were not corroborated by defense intelligence agencies, but said they are looking into it and the U.S. will respond if necessary.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said his military commanders heard initial reports on the bounties in January and he first saw an intelligence paper about it in February. While the threats were taken seriously, he said they have not yet been found credible.
Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the role of the military during recent protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd.
Several House members asked about the Russian bounty reports. Milley said Russia and other nations have long worked against the U.S. in Afghanistan, but the specific notion of bounties has not been proven.
“If in fact there’s bounties directed by the government of Russia or any of their institutions to kill American soldiers, that’s a big deal,” he said. “I and the secretary and many others are taking it seriously, we’re going to get to the bottom of it, we’re going to find out if, in fact, it’s true. And if it is true we will take action.”
The bulk of the hearing focused on the role of the National Guard soldiers during the civil unrest in support of law enforcement agencies.
Esper said using the Guard was a better alternative than using active-duty forces as President Donald Trump had threatened.
His stance is at odds with Trump, who had spoken of invoking the Insurrection Act in order to use active-duty forces on the streets of the nation's capital during protests in late May and early June that included limited acts of violence, such as setting a fire in St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House. Several active-duty units were put on alert but ultimately were not deployed in Washington.
Thursday was the first time Esper and Milley have testified before Congress since March 4, when they appeared to discuss the administration's defense policy proposal.
Military and defense , Government and politics , Military intelligence , Death of George Floyd , Legislature , Military leadership
Donald Trump , Mark Esper , Seth Moulton
United States Congress, United States government, Taliban, Russian armed forces, Russia government, U.S. Department of Defense, United States military, United States House of Representatives, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Russia , Eastern Europe , Europe , District of Columbia , United States , North America , Afghanistan , Central Asia , Asia