29 June 2020
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
US intelligence has determined that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, has been offering the Taliban a bounty for every American soldier it kills in Afghanistan. The White House claims that the president was not briefed about this, and therefore, he did not retaliate. The administration is lying. This kind of information would have run up the chain of command to the Oval Office in a hurry. In all likelihood, the president knew about this, and his desire to please Vladimir Putin resulted in tolerating the situation. The alternative interpretation is that the intelligence community failed the president, and that is far less credible.
It is appalling but entirely predictable that the GRU would do this kind of thing, especially unit 29155 (which also tried to poison Sergei Skripal in the UK). The GRU has engaged in far nastier behavior over the decades. What many American and NATO analysts are missing is the fact that the GRU's motivation was the usual; they throw things against the wall to see what sticks. In this instance, the plan was to kill Americans, but that was secondary to infiltrating the Taliban. The Russians have no love of Islamic terrorists, and the Taliban is a creature of Pakistani intelligence. However, Russian interests do suggest that creating a friendly faction with the Taliban would prove most useful.
For the American side of the equation, Donald Trump is plain lying when he said he was never briefed about it. He cannot even claim it was in a Presidential Daily Briefing that he missed reading (plausible at first blush) because this sort of information would have been presented verbally and in a meeting as well as by memorandum.
The Washington Post said this morning, "The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said."
The New York Times reported, "The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options -- starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said."
The administration has refined its response, claiming that the president only gets briefings on intelligence that is credible and verifiable. Those familiar with intelligence will understand that it is an art not a science and that nothing is 100% certain. Credible and verfiable are important but to fail to alert the president to such a move by the GRU, even if it is merely a rumor that is being investigated, is incomptetence of the highest order. The intelligence community found the information crebible enough to share it with British Intelligence, as UK soldiers were also targeted. It in unbeleivable that the UK PM would know when POTUS doesn't when the intelligence came from US assets.
Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a Republican member of Congress from Wyoming, tweeted out the questions of the moment. "If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?"
This journal is certain that the answers are: it is true; they were briefed; it was in the PDB; just about everyone in the foreign affairs circle in the White House knew months ago: and nothing.
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