United States House Democrats on Tuesday were disappointed with the White House briefing on Russian-Taliban bounties intelligence, calling for more information from the intelligence community.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who led a group of Democrats to the White House briefing early Tuesday, said the briefing had not provided them with any new substantial information about the intelligence.
“What we need is a briefing by the Intelligence community to give us their assessment of the credibility of this information,” Hoyer told reporters in a press conference in the Capitol.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who also attended the briefing, said at the press conference that “the right people were not in the room to give us the kind of briefing that we needed to get.”
United States media reported that the briefing was led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, joined by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien as well as other National Security Council officials.
“We need to hear from the heads of the intelligence agencies about how they assess the allegations that have been made publicly,” Schiff said.
Hoyer also noted that he emphasized to Meadows that the White House briefing “was not a substitute for the speaker and minority leader of the Senate’s request for a full briefing of our members.”
In response, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later in the day that “Democrats should come forward in good faith … the Democratic party politicizing this information, which I think is absolutely disgraceful.”
The Pentagon said in a statement late Monday that it had “no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
“The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” said a statement.
The State Department said on Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had held a videoconference on Monday with Afghan Taliban’s political chief Mullah Baradar, in which he called on the Taliban to fulfill its commitments, including not attacking Americans.
The New York Times first reported last Friday that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the intelligence that Russian intelligence units secretly offered bounties to Taliban-related militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan during United States-Taliban peace talks.
The story also said the National Security Council discussed this issue at an interagency meeting in late March, while the White House thus far has not taken any actions to respond.
The Washington Post reported in a Sunday piece that Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants were believed to have led to the deaths of several United States soldiers.
Trump said late Sunday that intelligence officials told him that this intelligence was not credible and thus he was not briefed.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and the death toll of United States service members has surpassed 2,400 in this longest war in United States history. Trump has long complained about the endlessness of the war and sought a full withdrawal from the Central Asian country.
The United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal in late February, in which Washington said it would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days. The agreement also called for the full withdrawal of the United States military by May 2021 if the Taliban meets the conditions of the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups.
Commander of United States Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said earlier this month that the United States military had reduced its troops level to 8,600 in Afghanistan, fulfilling its first phased pullout obligation under the United States-Taliban deal.