WASHINGTON — The nation's top diplomat warned the Taliban's main negotiator during a videoconference call not to attack American citizens amid reports that a Russian military intelligence unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters for the deaths of American soldiers.
The Monday call, between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban's deputy leader and chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar, focused on the full implementation of the Doha agreement, according to a State Department statement. The Doha accord, signed between the U.S. and the Taliban in February, plans for the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees and a reduction in fighting.
Pompeo's conversation comes on the heels of an explosive report by The New York Times that Russia paid the Taliban cash bounties to target and kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Times reported Monday night that Trump had received a written briefing in February about the intelligence and The Associated Press reported that the White House was aware of the matter in early 2019.
"The Secretary made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a Tuesday statement.
In a statement issued just before midnight, the Pentagon said Monday that the intelligence regarding the bounties has not been confirmed.
"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. To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
"Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan — and around the world — most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats," Hoffman added.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that President Donald Trump was not briefed on the matter because the allegations had not been verified by the intelligence community.