Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 1 October 2020

UK minister says he's aware of intelligence claims about Russia paying Taliban to kill US troops

Donald Trump's spokeswoman says claims have still not been verified

Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, arrives at 10 Downing Street in London. Bloomberg
Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, arrives at 10 Downing Street in London. Bloomberg

Britain’s defence secretary on Tuesday said he was aware of intelligence relating to claims that Russia paid the Taliban to kill US troops, but declined to comment further.

“On the issue of the reports, which I think were in The New York Times, all I can say is: I’m aware of the intelligence,” Ben Wallace told a parliamentary committee.

“But I can’t comment on intelligence matters other than to say we take lots of measures to defend and make sure our soldiers are kept safe when deployed."

Mr Wallace said he would not comment on whether the intelligence was true.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the allegations, a day after saying he had not because the claims had not been verified.

"The president has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain because of The New York Times and the irresponsible leaks," Ms McEnany said.

"Yes, he has been briefed, but that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified."

Mr Trump came under growing pressure to respond to the claims, with Democrats demanding answers and accusing him of bowing to Russia at the risk of soldiers’ lives.

Frustrated House Democrats returning from a briefing at the White House said they learnt nothing new about American intelligence assessments about Russian overtures to militants as the US and the Taliban held talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

Senate Republicans, who attended a separate briefing, largely defended the president, arguing along with the White House that the intelligence was unverified.

The intelligence assessments were first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to the Associated Press by US intelligence officials and others.

Updated: July 1, 2020 12:29 PM

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