Donald Trump

US Officials Say Intel on Russian Bounties Was Less Than Conclusive. That Misses the Big Picture.

But the debate over that narrow issue obscures a larger consensus. U.S. intel agencies have long assessed that Russia backs our enemies in Afghanistan

In this April1 14, 2018, file photo, then-Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie speaks during a media availability at the Pentagon in Washington.
Alex Brandon/AP, File

A growing chorus of American officials have said in recent days that the intelligence suggesting Russians paid "bounties" to induce the Taliban to kill American service members in Afghanistan is less than conclusive.

But the debate about that narrow and contested issue distracts from a larger, often-overlooked consensus, current and former military and intelligence officials say.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed for years that Vladimir Putin's Russia is supporting America's enemies in Afghanistan with cash and weapons. And President Donald Trump has said nothing publicly about it, even as he has pursued warmer relations with Putin and Russia, including ordering his intelligence agencies to cooperate with Russia in the Middle East.

"We should always remember, the Russians are not our friends," Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters this week. "And they are not our friends in Afghanistan. And they do not wish us well."

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