Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, demanded a congressional investigation into the reported Russian bounty scheme that offered Afghan militants rewards for killing U.S. troops. On Friday, the New York Times reported on American intelligence that a “Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there.” Furthermore, the article suggests that President Trump and his administration failed to act after being briefed on the issue in March. Gillibrand is calling for an immediate investigation of the incident to determine the full consequences of the bounty scheme, who must be held accountable and how.
“I believe that when we ask our service members and their families to take risks and make sacrifices for the United States, it is with the understanding that we will do anything we can to mitigate those risks and honor those sacrifices,” said Senator Gillibrand. “President Trump appears to have utterly failed to uphold his end of the bargain. Through thorough investigation, oversight, and accountability measures, we can still keep ours.”
Full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Chairmen Inhofe and Rubio and Ranking Members Reed and Warner,
I am writing to call on you to convene joint hearings to investigate reporting in a June 26, 2020 New York Times article that described a bounty scheme in which Russian intelligence services offered Afghan militants rewards for killing U.S. service members. Disturbingly, the article alleges that President Donald Trump was made aware of this scheme in late March and failed to act. Congress must promptly investigate to put the details of this incident in the public record, figure out the full consequences of the bounty scheme, and determine who must be held accountable and how.
According to the Times, a Russian intelligence unit known for assassinating defectors abroad has been offering Taliban-linked fighters monetary rewards for killing U.S. service members. Though the article indicates some militants likely collected bounties, the Times did not establish the full scope and death count of the program. Reporting did note that President Trump has not authorized any steps over the last three months in response to this significant Russian escalation, instead pushing for Russian readmission into the G-7.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, I believe that when we ask our service members and their families to take risks and make sacrifices for the United States, it is with the understanding that we will do anything we can to mitigate those risks and honor those sacrifices. President Trump appears to have utterly failed to uphold his end of the bargain. Through thorough investigation, oversight, and accountability measures, we can still keep ours.
I believe an effective investigation must investigate at least the following questions:
1. What was the scope of the bounty program? Were any Americans killed as a result? What are their names? Who received the bounties? How much was paid out?
2. When did President Trump and senior officials learn about the Russian bounty program? What options were they presented with to respond? What did key advisers recommend? What did the President do?
3. Which Members of Congress were made aware of the bounty program? What were they told and when?
I am deeply distressed that President Trump appears to have willfully failed to protect service members and failed them and their families. We do not have to follow in his foot steps.