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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Britain’s defence secretary said on Tuesday he was aware of intelligence relating to reports that Russia paid the Taliban to kill US troops but declined to comment further.
Asked about the reports in the New York Times, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “On the issue of the reports which I think were in the New York Times, all I can say is: I’m aware of the intelligence.”
“But I can’t comment on intelligence matters other than to say we take lots of measures to defend and make sure our soldiers . are kept safe when deployed,” Mr Wallace told a parliamentary committee.
He said he would not comment on whether the intelligence was true or not but that “we just take steps”.
“It is absolutely true that countries like Russia have taken lots of malign activity against us,” Mr Wallace said.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the allegations that Russia offered bounties for killing American troops in Afghanistan, a day after saying he hadn’t because it had not been verified.
"The president has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain because of The New York Times and the irresponsible leaks," McEnany told reporters. "Yes, he has been briefed, but that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified."
President Trump came under growing pressure to respond to allegations that Russia offered the bounties, with Democrats demanding answers and accusing Trump of bowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the risk of US soldiers’ lives.
Frustrated House Democrats returning from a briefing at the White House said they learnt nothing new about American intelligence assessments that suggested Russia was making overtures to militants as the US and the Taliban held talks to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
Senate Republicans, who attended a separate briefing, largely defended the president, arguing along with the White House that the intelligence was unverified.
The intelligence assessments were first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter.
Updated: July 1, 2020 02:23 AM
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