First off, I want to thank everyone for the generous donations to the Keep Mahablog Online fundraiser. I am pleased to say the goal has been met! Exceeded a tad, even! I can’t ask for more!. Well, I could, but …
Yesterday the New York Times dropped the headline-bomb Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says. Here’s the part of the story that has received remarkably little attention, seems to me:
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
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.
Where is the outrage? I’ve looked and looked; the White House has not responded to this report yet, nor has The Creature tweeted about it. His themes today, btw, are “arguments” that the Obama Administration was riddled with corruption and that Obamacare should be ended now because it’s a disgrace. And this one:
Told that @NYCMayor Bill de Blasio wants to paint the fabled & beautiful Fifth Avenue, right in front of Trump Tower/Tiffany, with a big yellow Black Lives Matter sign. “Pigs in a Blanket, Fry ‘Em Like Bacon”, referring to killing Police, is their chant. NYC Police are furious!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2020
It’s okay with Trump if the Taliban collects money from Russia for frying U.S. troops, though. No problem with the White House at all.
Now, there has been some outraged expressed by Democratic lawmakers, although I have mostly read about this in British newspapers. From the Guardian:
As the news broke it triggered a fierce response from top Democrats, especially those who have long pointed to what they say is Trump’s overly close relationship to Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, said: “Trump was cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G7 all while his administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban.”
Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia and a professor of political science at Stanford University, said: “I hope the American people will be as outraged as I am over Trump’s complacency. After he knew about these Putin-ordered contracts to kill US soldiers, Trump invited Putin to the G7.”
Yep. Let’s invite Vlad to the G7. The bounty thing is no big deal to Trump.
Also, there’s been some outrage expressed on the left-leaning blogs (rightie blogs ain’t touchin’ it). Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice:
I want to be really, really, really, really clear about what Russia, via the GRU, has been doing with these bounties against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. It has been waging war against the US and our coalition partners, many of whom are our NATO allies, by proxy through Taliban backed or affiliated militia and irregular forces. In short, they have been waging a form of low intensity, irregular, and unconventional war against the US and our partners and allies in Afghanistan. US concept, doctrine, and law regarding how to respond to state directed cyberattacks and subverting influence operations undertaking by Russian military intelligence may not be adequate to formally state that those operations, which have been ongoing against the US and our allies and partners since at least 2014 are, in fact and in law, acts of war. But they are clear about what Russia’s GRU is doing in Afghanistan and what the GRU is doing in Afghanistan is waging war against the US and our allied coalition partners.
The President and the National Command Authority should have pushed back forcefully and hard as soon as this was brought to their attention. A démarche demanding the Russian government immediately desist should have been issued immediately. It should have delineated a very short window of time for Russia to stop its actions against US and coalitions forces, and if/when they didn’t comply, then the US response should have escalated. US Cyber Command, along with the cyber operations components of the CIA, should have been tasked with a swift and harsh response against Russian targets through the cyber domain if the diplomatic pushback failed. At the same time, US Special Operations Command should have been tasked with two overlapping missions if the diplomatic pushback failed. The first was to put SEALs, whose specialty is hunting, capturing, killing, and/or rescuing, into the Afghan theater with a very focused assignment: find the GRU personnel responsible for taking out the bounties and the Taliban affiliated militias and irregular forces who had accepted them, capture them if possible, and kill them if necessary. The second was to put small teams – Operational Detachments Alpha (ODAs) – of US Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, into the theater to conduct our own unconventional warfare operations against the Russian intelligence units and the Taliban aligned militias and irregulars they were partnering with. The Green Berets primary mission set is unconventional warfare. They are the best at it and should have been deployed, along with the SEALs, as soon as it became clear that responses through diplomatic channels had failed. This sequence of operations: diplomacy via a démarche and, if that failed, then a cyber response and two separate, but related special operations responses would create time and space for the development of plans and sequels to escalate as necessary. None of this has, of course, happened!
At the very least, these are charges that require a lot of investigation to be sure they are accurate.
And Vladimir Putin knows he can get away with anything as long as Trump is in the White House. As Trump’s re-election chances get iffier and iffier, I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin escalates his aggressions the remainder of this year.
What this also shows us is that Democrats just don’t do outrage as effectively as Republicans do outrage. Congressional Republicans kept the fake Benghazi! scandal going for four years, from 2012 to 2016. What will Democrats do?