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Posts Tagged ‘Russian Bounties’

How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies  | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on July 11, 2020

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/07/pentagon-afghan-bountygate-us-intelligence-agencies/

Another New York Times Russiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies.

By Gareth Porter

The New York Times dropped another Russiagate bombshell on June 26 with a sensational front-page story headlined, “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.”  A predictable media and political frenzy followed, reviving the anti-Russian hysteria that has excited the Beltway establishment for the past four years.

But a closer look at the reporting by the Times and other mainstream outlets vying to confirm its coverage reveals another scandal not unlike Russiagate itself: the core elements of the story appear to have been fabricated by Afghan government intelligence to derail a potential US troop withdrawal from the country. And they were leaked to the Times and other outlets by US national security state officials who shared an agenda with their Afghan allies.

In the days following the story’s publication, the maneuvers of the Afghan regime and US national security bureaucracy encountered an unexpected political obstacle: US intelligence agencies began offering a series of low confidence assessments in the Afghan government’s self-interested intelligence claims, judging them to be highly suspect at best, and altogether bogus at worst.

In light of this dramatic development, the Times’ initial report appears to have been the product of a sensationalistic disinformation dump aimed at prolonging the failed Afghan war in the face of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from it.

The Times quietly reveals its own sources’ falsehoods

The Times not only broke the Bountygate story but commissioned squads of reporters comprising nine different correspondents to write eight articles hyping the supposed scandal in the course of eight days. Its coverage displayed the paper’s usual habit of regurgitating bits of dubious information furnished to its correspondents by faceless national security sources. In the days after the Times’ dramatic publication, its correspondent squads were forced to revise the story line to correct an account that ultimately turned out to be false on practically every important point.

The Bountygate saga began on June 26, with a Times report declaring, “The United States concluded months ago” that the Russians “had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.” The report suggested that US intelligence analysts had reached a firm conclusion on Russian bounties as early as January. A follow-up Times report portrayed the shocking discovery of the lurid Russian plot thanks to the recovery of a large amount of U.S. cash from a “raid on a Taliban outpost.” That article sourced its claim to the interrogations of “captured Afghan militants and criminals.”

However, subsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

The Times also disclosed that the information provided by “captured militants and criminals” under “interrogation” had been the main source of suspicion of a Russian bounty scheme in Afghanistan. But those “militants and criminals” turned out to be thirteen relatives and business associates of the businessman whose house was raided.

The Times reported that those detainees were arrested and interrogated following the January 2020 raids based on suspicions by Afghan intelligence that they belonged to a “ring of middlemen” operating between the Russian GRU and so-called “Taliban-linked militants,” as Afghan sources made clear.

Furthermore, contrary to the initial report by the Times, those raids had actually been carried out exclusively by the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Times disclosed this on July 1. Indeed, the interrogation of those detained in the raids was carried out by the NDS, which explains why the Times reporting referred repeatedly to “interrogations” without ever explaining who actually did the questioning.

Given the notorious record of the NDS, it must be assumed that its interrogators used torture or at least the threat of it to obtain accounts from the detainees that would support the Afghan government’s narrative. Both the Toronto Globe and Mail and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have documented as recently as 2019 the frequent use of torture by the NDS to obtain information from detainees.  The primary objective of the NDS was to establish an air of plausibility around the claim that the fugitive businessman Azizi was the main “middleman” for a purported GRU scheme to offer bounties for killing Americans.

NDS clearly fashioned its story to suit the sensibilities of the U.S. national security state. The narrative echoed previous intelligence reports about Russian bounties in Afghanistan that circulated in early 2019, and which were even discussed at NSC meetings. Nothing was done about these reports, however, because nothing had been confirmed.

The idea that hardcore Taliban fighters needed or wanted foreign money to kill American invaders could have been dismissed on its face. So Afghan officials spun out claims that Russian bounties were paid to incentivize violence by “militants and criminals” supposedly “linked” to the Taliban.

These elements zeroed in on the April 2019 IED attack on a vehicle near the U.S. military base at Bagram in Parwan province that killed three US Marines, insisting that the Taliban had paid local criminal networks in the region to carry out attacks.

As former Parwan police chief Gen. Zaman Mamozai told the Times, Taliban commanders were based in only two of the province’s ten districts, forcing them to depend on a wider network of non-Taliban killers-for-hire to carry out attacks elsewhere in the province. These areas included the region around Bagram, according to the Afghan government’s argument.

But Dr. Thomas H. Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School, a leading expert on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan who has been researching war in the country for three decades,  dismissed the idea that the Taliban would need a criminal network to operate effectively in Parwan.

“The Taliban are all over Parwan,” Johnson stated in an interview with The Grayzone, observing that its fighters had repeatedly carried out attacks on or near the Bagram base throughout the war.

With withdrawal looming, the national security state plays its Bountygate card

Senior U.S. national security officials had clear ulterior motives for embracing the dubious NDS narrative. More than anything, those officials were determined to scuttle Trump’s push for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. For Pentagon brass and civilian leadership, the fear of withdrawal became more acute in early 2020 as Trump began to demand an even more rapid timetable for a complete pullout than the 12-14 months being negotiated with the Taliban.

It was little surprise then that this element leapt at the opportunity to exploit the self-interested claims by the Afghan NDS to serve its own agenda, especially as the November election loomed. The Times even cited one “senior [US] official” musing that “the evidence about Russia could have threatened that [Afghanistan] deal, because it suggested that after eighteen year of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.”

In fact, the intelligence reporting from the CIA Station in Kabul on the NDS Russia bounty claims was included in the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) on or about February 27 — just as the negotiation of the U.S. peace agreement with the Taliban was about to be signed. That was too late to prevent the signing but timed well enough to ratchet up pressure on Trump to back away from his threat to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.

Trump may have been briefed orally on the issue at the time, but even if he had not been, the presence of a summary description of the intelligence in the PDB could obviously have been used to embarrass him on Afghanistan by leaking it to the media.

According to Ray McGovern, a former CIA official who was responsible for preparing the PDB for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the insertion of raw, unconfirmed intelligence from a self-interested Afghan intelligence agency into the PDB was a departure from normal practice.

Unless it was a two or three-sentence summary of a current intelligence report, McGovern explained, an item in the PDB normally involved only important intelligence that had been confirmed.  Furthermore, according to McGovern, PDB items are normally shorter versions of items prepared the same day as part of the CIA’s “World Intelligence Review” or “WIRe.”

Information about the purported Russian bounty scheme, however, was not part of the WIRe until May 4, well over two months later, according to the Times. That discrepancy added weight to the suggestion that the CIA had political motivations for planting the raw NDS reporting in the PDB before it could be evaluated.

This June, Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) convened a meeting to discuss the intelligence report, officials told the Times. NSC members drew up a range of options in response to the alleged Russian plot, from a diplomatic protest to more forceful responses. Any public indication that US troops in Afghanistan had been targeted by Russian spies would have inevitably threatened Trump’s plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At some point in the weeks that followed, the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency each undertook evaluations of the Afghan intelligence claims. Once the Times began publishing stories about the issue, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe directed the National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for managing all common intelligence community assessments, to write a memorandum summarizing the intelligence organizations’ conclusions.

The memorandum revealed that the intelligence agencies were not impressed with what they’d seen. The CIA and National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) each gave the NDS intelligence an assessment of “moderate confidence,” according to memorandum.

An official guide to intelligence community terminology used by policymakers to determine how much they should rely on assessments indicates that “moderate confidence” generally indicates that “the information being used in the analysis may be interpreted in various ways….” It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the NDS intelligence when the CIA and NCTC arrived at this finding.

The assessment by the National Security Agency was even more important, given that it had obtained intercepts of electronic data on financial transfers “from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account,” according to the Times’ sources.  But the NSA evidently had no idea what the transfers related to, and essentially disavowed the information from the Afghan intelligence agency.

The NIC memorandum reported that NSA gave the information from Afghan intelligence “low confidence” — the lowest of the three possible levels of confidence used in the intelligence community.  According to the official guide to intelligence community terminology, that meant that “information used in the analysis is scant, questionable, fragmented, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information.”

Other intelligence agencies reportedly assigned “low confidence” to the information as well, according to the memorandum. Even the Defense Intelligence Agency, known for its tendency to issue alarmist warnings about activities by US adversaries, found no evidence in the material linking the Kremlin to any bounty offers.

Less than two weeks after the Times rolled out its supposed bombshell on Russian bounties, relying entirely on national security officials pushing their own bureaucratic interests on Afghanistan, the story was effectively discredited by the intelligence community itself. In a healthy political climate, this would have produced a major setback for the elements determined to keep US troops entrenched in Afghanistan.

But the political hysteria generated by the Times and the hyper-partisan elements triggered by the appearance of another sordid Trump-Putin connection easily overwhelmed the countervailing facts. It was all the Pentagon and its bureaucratic allies needed to push back on plans for a speedy withdrawal from a long and costly war.

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist who has covered national security policy since 2005 and was the recipient of Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2012.  His most recent book is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis co-authored with John Kiriakou, just published in February.

 

 

 

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The Russian Bounties Hoax | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 4, 2020

Well the entire country is awash in American cash as well as every
form of black market in drugs, guns, prostitution and the rest. The U.S.
itself has been paying the Taliban since 2005 or 2006 literally
billions of dollars in protection money for convoys of U.S. supplies in
the country. There’s even a whole book devoted to that subject called Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban by
Douglas Wissing. They then spend that money buying American weapons,
night-vision equipment and even Humvees from the Afghan Army the U.S.
has built there.

It is not as though anyone in the ME needs to be bribed to kill Americans.

We invaded the country 20 years ago because Saudi Arabia burned down the world trade center. For some reason the Afghans don’t like 20 years of violent occupation.

Correction: The US used that as an excuse to exercise the plan of control of ME oil and oil pipelines.

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/the-russian-bounties-hoax/

by

Img 8979

There’s no reason for you to accept the story about the Russian military paying Afghan militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan. The New York TimesWall Street Journal and Washington Post all started this controversy late last week with incredibly thin stories. They did not even pretend to claim that it was true the Russians had put bounties on U.S. troops, only that they had anonymous sources who claimed there was a government report somewhere that said that. They were reporting the “fact” that there was a rumor.

They wouldn’t even say which agencies were leaking the story. All we were told was the story came from “intelligence officials” or even “people familiar” with the story.

They did not cite any evidence and did not claim to connect the rumored bounties to the deaths of any particular American soldiers or marines.

All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true. The Times wrote this “would be an escalation,” “officials have said,” “it would be the first time,” and again, “would also be a huge escalation.” [Emphasis added.] (“Escalation” of what? Russia’s global dark arts war against American interests which also happens to only exist in the form of claims of anonymous government officials.)

The New York Times follow-up story was still very thin. Again, the extremely vague “intelligence officials” and now the extremely broad “special operations forces,” who are not intelligence officials, are their claimed sources. They do not cite the CIA, who refused to comment.

The sources claim that the intelligence report says that captured “militants”—again deliberately vague—were caught with some American cash and later admitted to Afghan National Security Force interrogators that they had been paid these Russian bounties.

Well the entire country is awash in American cash as well as every form of black market in drugs, guns, prostitution and the rest. The U.S. itself has been paying the Taliban since 2005 or 2006 literally billions of dollars in protection money for convoys of U.S. supplies in the country. There’s even a whole book devoted to that subject called Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban by Douglas Wissing. They then spend that money buying American weapons, night-vision equipment and even Humvees from the Afghan Army the U.S. has built there.

Of course the Afghan government has a huge interest in perpetuating such tales as these, whether they tortured these statements out of these prisoners or not. They want desperately for U.S. forces to stay to protect their power. If making up a story about Russia and the Taliban could undermine the Trump administration’s peace talks with the Taliban, then they just might do that.

Remember, just in this century, America’s intelligence agencies have lied about Iraq’s unconventional weapons and alliance with Osama bin Laden, Libya’s impending genocide, Syria’s “moderate rebel” bin Ladenite terrorists and false-flag chemical weapons attacks, and most recently the massive hoax that Donald Trump was a brainwashed, blackmailed secret agent of Putin’s Kremlin who had conspired with Russia to usurp Hillary Clinton’s rightful throne in the 2016 election. They’re liars.

After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous “intelligence officials” in the New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so.

The Wall Street Journal conceded yesterday that the National Security Agency is dissenting from the conclusion about the bounties, though of course not saying why. However, just the fact that they put that in the paper seems to signal a very strong dissent from the conclusion and the media and political war that is being waged in the name of it. The Pentagon also said on Monday it has not seen “corroborating evidence” to support the claims.

Current reports are that the supposed events all happened last year. This raises major questions why the story was leaked to the three most important newspapers in the country in the way that it was last week. The national security state has done everything they can to keep the U.S. involved in that war, successfully badgering Obama and Trump both into expanding it against their better judgement. If Trump had listened to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, we’d be on year three of an escalation with plans to begin talks with the Taliban next year. Instead, Trump talked to them for the last year-and-a-half and has already signed a deal to have us out by the end of next May.

The national security state also has a continuing interest in preventing Trump from “getting along with Russia.” Anything they can do to advance the tired debunked old narrative that Trump puts Russian interests before America’s, they will. Of course that is the story TV is pushing again this week. (I am not a Trump supporter. But lies are lies and his position on Afghanistan is now correct.)

Before this supposed story broke last week, Sen. Angus King, the Democrat, was already complaining about Trump’s plans for a “precipitous” and “hasty” withdrawal from Afghanistan, after two decades—a withdrawal planned for completion another year from now. Shocking but not surprising, as they say.

What interest might Russia have in doing this?

It’s America who switched sides in the Afghan war, not Russia. They have supported the U.S. effort and U.S.-created government in Kabul since 2001. In 2012, when the Pakistanis closed the “southern route” from Karachi through the Khyber Pass, Russia re-opened the “northern route” through their country to allow American supplies into Afghanistan for Obama’s “surge.” They have sent arms to the Afghan National Army. To get around their own sanctions, the U.S. has even had India buy helicopters from the Russians to give to the Afghan government.

There’s no question they are talking to the Taliban. But so are we.

There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.

Let’s say hypothetically that the story was true: The simplest explanation for Russia’s motive then would be that they were trying to provoke exactly the reaction they have gotten, which is renewed pressure on Trump to back out of the withdrawal deal with the Taliban since his political enemies will spin it as a “win” for Russia if we leave. But why would Russia want to provoke America to stay in Afghanistan? Could it be for the same reason that Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan backed the mujahideen against the USSR back in the 70s and 80s—to provoke them into committing national suicide by bogging them down in a no-win quagmire, killing hundreds of thousands of people and wasting uncountable billions of dollars?

So what would that say about our policy now?

Of course that’s all nonsense too. The reason the Russians have supported our efforts in Afghanistan for the last 19 years is because we’re protecting their friends in power and at least supposedly have been fighting to keep transnational Islamist terrorism at bay. If they are backing the Taliban at all now it would be just a small version of their own “Awakening” policy of supporting the local mujahideen against the new smaller and more radical groups claiming loyalty to ISIS there, since the Taliban have been their most effective opponents.

This is not much different than the current American policy which prioritizes the Taliban’s keeping ISIS and al Qaeda down and out for us.

Of course it’s America’s (dis)loyal Saudi and Pakistani allies who have been backing the Afghan Taliban insurgency against the U.S. occupation all these years, not the Russians.

Afghanistan will probably be mired in protracted conflict for years after U.S. forces finally leave, though hopefully all sides are tired enough of fighting now that they can negotiate acceptable power-sharing arrangements instead. If the pressure is bad enough that Trump renounces his own deal, the Taliban will almost certainly go back to war against U.S. forces there. That is not likely to happen though.

As far as America’s relationship with Russia—the single most important thing in the world for all people—this is just another setback on the road to a peaceful and acceptable coexistence.

 

Be seeing you

 

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