Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, told ABC News on Tuesday that while he saw no proof of Russians offering bounties to kill U.S. soldiers during his time commanding Militaries in Afghanistan, the families of fallen service members are “entitled” to answers.
” You just need to take a look at the truths like always, investigate thoroughly,” stated Berger, who spoke with ABC News Chief Global Affairs Reporter Martha Raddatz in a special interview airing this Sunday.
The White Home on Tuesday continued to supply instructions to select members of Congress on the intelligence about reported Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which a military official told ABC News revealed that Russian intelligence officers had more than the previous year used to pay Taliban militants to eliminate American troops. Legislators have actually gotten in touch with the administration to share more information and possibly take action.
Among the events being looked at for a possible connection to the alleged Russian scheme is an April 8, 2019 bomb blast on an American military convoy near Bagram Air Base that killed 3 Marines, according to The Associated Press
Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines and Personnel Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman were all killed when a vehicle bomb detonated near their vehicle as their convoy headed back to the base. They were among the 23 Americans who passed away in Afghanistan in 2019 either from fight or non-combat factors.
Hendriks’ dad Erik told ABC News on Tuesday that it would “break his heart” to learn that reports of Russian bounties held true. He stated he would hope service members were never sent out into battle without the absolute best intelligence possible.
Erik Hendriks likewise stated he was disappointed that no one from the Trump administration had actually yet reached out to his household to use alleviation or responses, however was careful to divorce his anger from politics.
” I’m not shooting darts at Trump’s face,” he said, before adding that he has actually earned the right to speculate and question.
Berger informed Raddatz that he didn’t recall ever seeing anything about Russian meddling in any intelligence reports while in Afghanistan, however stated, “it takes a lot to surprise me now.”.
” Where we ran in southern Helmand we didn’t have, to my knowledge, Russian impact,” Berger said. “It might have been, but I was not knowledgeable about it.”
The information about the Russian bounty program was very first gleaned from unique operations raids on Taliban locations in January where large amounts of American cash was found, according to a military official.
Subsequent intelligence about the program specified enough that both the military and CIA took actions to increase security and security of Russian operatives inside Afghanistan, a source informed ABC News.
Months later on that intelligence was briefed to senior nationwide security authorities, according to the military official.
President Donald Trump and White House authorities have actually said he was not briefed on the intelligence since it had actually not been totally confirmed by the U.S. intelligence community. However the New York City Times prices estimate two officials as saying that the details was consisted of in written kind in the president’s day-to-day intelligence briefing from late February.
While the April 2019 event is amongst those under investigation for possible links to the bounty program, the Pentagon said in a statement provided late Monday that it has not discovered any corroborating proof.
” The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” stated Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s primary spokesman. “To date, DOD has no corroborating proof to validate the recent accusations found in open-source reports. Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan– and around the globe– most seriously and therefore constantly embrace steps to prevent harm from prospective risks.”.
The director of nationwide intelligence and the CIA decried the intelligence leakages about the Russian bounty program in separate statements Monday, stating it could hinder their ongoing analysis about the Russian program.
ABC News’ James Meek and Henderson Hewes contributed to this report