just like with syria, the gimmick worked to stop trump pulling the troops out

Why Didn’t Haspel Demand an Oval Office Meeting?
Joe Lauria, Consortium News, Jul 3 2020

The LA Times reported Thursday night that a complete withdrawal of Pindo troops from Afghanistan, which Donald Trump had demanded, has been put off until after the Pindo presidential election in November. Maintaining imperial interests in Afghanistan seems to be one of the main reasons for the so-far uncorroborated, possibly cooked-up “scandal” known now as Bountygate. Other motives appear to be the same twofer that was at the core of Russiagate: first, unnamed intel boxtops meddling in domestic Pindo politics, this time to undermine Trump’s re-election campaign; and, second, to even further demonize and pressure Russia. The public has been subjected to daily morsels of supposedly factual stories meant to further deepen the plot. The first item dropped online on Jun 26 with the NYT’s initial reporting on the say-so of “Pindo intel boxtops.” It seemed yet another attempt to launder disinformation through big media, giving it more credibility than if it had come directly from the security services. A discerning reader would want more than the word of a bunch of spooks who make a living practicing deception. The “evidence” for the story that Russia paid the Taliban to kill Pindo soldiers came from interrogation of Afghan detainees. If the interrogations were “enhanced” the evidence is even more unreliable. Consortium News has been a strong critic of Trump, but we see intel agencies’ insertion into domestic politics to be a greater threat than even eight years of Trump. As spooks like to say:

Administrations come and go. And we’re still here.

A main purpose of this planted NYT story was made clear in the following paragraph, and it’s been the constant theme since, seized on by Trump critics from the Lincoln Project to Biden:

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s NSC discussed the problem at an inter-agency meeting in late March, the boxtops said. Boxtops 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 boxtops said.

The inference is that Trump knew about it for months and didn’t do anything, obviously because he’s a Kremlin agent.

Trump said he was unaware of the “intelligence.” John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, put out a statement on Jun 27 saying Trump had not been briefed on it. But the NYT that day quoted a “Pindo intel boxtop” (another one or the same?) saying:

It was included in the President’s Daily Brief, a written document which draws from spy-work to make analytic predictions about long-standing adversaries, unfolding plots and emerging crises around the world. The briefing document is given to the president to read and they serve as the basis for oral briefings to him several times a week.

The NYT did not say that Trump was orally told about it. I suspect the CIA gave it to him only in print, and knowing Trump doesn’t entirely read his daily written briefings, did not orally tell him, making him out to be a liar by leaking this information. But this raised the immediate question: If this were such an urgent matter that Trump had ignored for more than three months, why hadn’t DCI Haspel demanded, in all that time, an immediate Oval Office meeting with Trump to urge him to act? After all, isn’t the CIA’s job supposed to be to protect Pindos? Scott Ritter told me by email:

If this was even close to being confirmed, Haspel would have briefed directly given the sensitivity of the subject.

Haspel, distancing herself from the controversy, put out a statement condemning the leaks to the NYT, saying they “compromise and disrupt the critical inter-agency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability.” Clearly the purpose of this leaked story was not to protect the lives of Pindo soldiers. The story is being ginned up with small leaks everyday despite denials from the Taliban, Moscow and statements from the NSC, the NSA, the Pentagon and the DNI that undermine its credibility. NSC boxtops said the information had not been sufficiently corroborated to be brought to Trump’s attention. NSA Robert O’Brien, said:

Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence Community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items.

DNI John Ratcliffe said:

We are still investigating the alleged interference referenced in media reporting and we will brief the President and Congressional leaders at the appropriate time.

Pentagon spox said in a statement:

The DoD 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.

Ray McGovern said:

I helped prepare the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and personally conducted the one-on-one morning briefings in the Oval Office from 1981 to 1985. In those days we did our best to corroborate reporting, especially on highly sensitive issues, and did not try to cover our derrieres by alerting the president and his top aides to highly dubious reporting, however sexy.

The WSJ reported that the NSA “strongly dissented” from the assessment on the bounties, citing “people familiar with the matter.” Even the anti-Putin Moscow Times doesn’t buy the story.

The initial story has been followed up by new leaks nearly every day. First we heard from the NYT of an electronic transfer from a bank account controlled by the GRU, Russian military intelligence, to the Taliban. We are not told what this money was for. Was there a line item for “killing Pindo soldiers?” The NYT reports:

Though Pindostan has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations.

“Other intelligence” that is not cited “most likely” meant it was part of the bounty “program” is hardly convincing reporting. Anyone who knows anything about intelligence operations knows that such payments would be made by cash on the ground in Afghanistan and not by leaving a discoverable paper trail. The cash would come from Russian boxtops in Afghanistan, not wired to a Taliban account. This is the same portrayal of a bumbling, unprofessional Russian intelligence service that supposedly left Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet secret police chief in the metadata of its alleged hacks of the DNC. At the same time we are meant to be deathly afraid of these amateurs. The alleged money sent by bank transfer was supposedly handed out in cash on the battlefield by a “lowly drug dealer” who puzzled his neighbors because he was suddenly driving a fancy car. Rahmatullah Azizi, the NYT says, got the cash in Russia:

Pindo intelligence reports named Mr Azizi as a key middleman between the GRU and militants linked to the Taliban who carried out the attacks. He was among those who collected the cash in Russia, which intelligence files described as multiple payments of ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars.’

This contradicts the NYT‘s earlier story that the money was transferred electronically. Now the cash was collected in Russia. Azizi associates were arrested and a half-million dollars was found in his house. The NYT however, does not say what they were charged with. The NYT reports:

Just how the money was dispersed to militants carrying out attacks for the Taliban, and at what level the coordination occurred, remains unclear.

Indeed. In an earlier era of journalism that would incite an editor to bark, “Don’t put it in the story until you find out.” The three goals of the leaks are being accomplished:

  • Trump is being dogged by the story with no let up. Debunked Russiagate stories about him being a Kremlin tool have been revived.
  • Russia is further demonized, not just as the destroyer of Pindo democracy, but as the destroyer of Pindo lives.
  • The troops are staying put in Afghanistan over Trump’s objections.

The LA Times story said the decision to keep a little more than 4k troops there was made “late last month,” around the time the NYT story broke. It said:

The plan, worked out at a meeting between Pentagon and White House officials late last month, would represent an about-face for Trump. He has pushed for a complete withdrawal of the 8.6k troops now in Afghanistan by the election, seeing a pull-out as a much-needed foreign policy achievement as his reelection prospects have deteriorated. Trump had only recently told advisors that a full and rapid pullout could blunt the controversy over intelligence reports that Russia has paid militants to kill Pindo service members, one official said.

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