Trump was briefed on unverified intelligence that China offered bounties to Afghan 'non-state actors' to attack US troops

  • President Donald Trump was briefed earlier this month on unconfirmed intelligence reports that China offered bounties to non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack US troops, according to Axios and Politico.
  • "The U.S. has evidence that the PRC attempted to finance attacks on American servicemen by Afghan non-state actors by offering financial incentives or 'bounties,'" one senior administration official told Axios.
  • Trump received the intel briefing on December 17, and US officials are working to verify the information.
  • The allegations about China come after Trump largely dismissed reports over the summer that Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill US soldiers.
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President Donald Trump was briefed earlier this month on unconfirmed intelligence reports that China offered bounties to non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack US troops, according to an Axios report on Wednesday. 

National security advisor Robert O'Brien verbally informed Trump of the issue, and the unverified information was also included in the presidential daily briefing on December 17, Axios reported.

"Like all first reports, we react with caution to initial reports," one senior administration official familiar with the matter told Axios, adding that, "any intel reports relating to the safety of our forces we take very seriously."

Officials did not provide Axios with further details on where the intelligence came from, and did not offer clarification on who the "non-state actors" in Afghanistan could be. Though the timeline is uncertain, the supposed bounties took place around late February, when the US reached a deal with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan, one official told Axios.

"The U.S. has evidence that the PRC [People's Republic of China] attempted to finance attacks on American servicemen by Afghan non-state actors by offering financial incentives or 'bounties,'" an official told Axios.

The Trump administration is reportedly working to corroborate the allegations, which come after reports over the summer indicated that Russia secretly offered payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers.

The New York Times, which first broke the story on the suspected Russian bounty plot, also reported that US officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia's military intelligence agency (the GRU) to a Taliban-linked account.

Separate reports over the summer also suggested that Iran had paid bounties to the Taliban to target US troops in Afghanistan. 

Trump largely dismissed the Russia intel as a "hoax" when the news came out in June, and faced backlash after he neglected to bring up the issue during a phone call in July with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"No, that was a phone call to discuss other things. And frankly, that's an issue that mainly people said was fake news," Trump told Axios at the time. "I've never discussed it with him."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the other hand, warned his Russian counterpart that there will "be an enormous price to pay" should the reports be confirmed, the New York Times reported in August. 

Some in the Trump administration have questioned the veracity of the intelligence on the suspected Russian bounty plot and whether it actually led to the deaths of any US soldiers, but the president has continued to face criticism for not confronting Putin about the matter. 

 

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on the intelligence reports about China.

Hours after the Axios report on Wednesday, Politico reported that an administration official said the China intelligence is "less" credible than the reports on Russia. 

Politico also reported that President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is aiming to find out as much as possible about the China intelligence. Biden accused Trump's national security administration officials earlier this week of "obstruction" and claimed they have refused to provide him with key intelligence information during the transition period.

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