Contributor: Wy Spano
Russian intelligence has been paying Afghan troops to kill American troops. Doing it for more than a year. Apparently the price was $100,000. On Feb. 23 the information was given to Trump in his daily intelligence briefing. On June 26 the New York Times reported the bounties. Trump did nothing about his favorite country putting out bounties on our troops, even after the public found out. What’s the deal here? Why has Trump decided Russia is our friend when everyone in intelligence and the State Department knows they are a very crafty enemy?
Intelligence, like reporting for the media, is ideally all about a search for truth. I learned this nearly 60 years ago, when I was a young 2nd lieutenant, receiving Army Intelligence training in Baltimore. My brief experience there, and later as the Chief of the Intelligence Branch at 5th Army Headquarters in Chicago, left me with a lifelong interest in intelligence work and journalism.
I also learned back then that everybody in the intel world wanted to get something that they had developed into the daily presidential briefing. That seems to have changed under 45 (i.e., Trump).
The fact (or at least strong suspicion) that Russia’s GRU was offering $100,000 bounties to Afghan troops to kill American soldiers was known for more than a year before the president was finally told. Three possible reasons for that:
1.) The intel community and Trump don’t get along. Why? I think it might be because the intel people are too much like reporters, in the sense that they don’t like to get fooled and lied to. Which, of course, is the only way Trump knows how to communicate. You don’t want to get into the presidential briefing as much as in the past because he doesn’t listen and he’s just as likely to blame you for the truth you are telling him. He’s also fairly famous for not reading his briefings. They have to be recited to him. Indeed, at one point, the White House tried to blame the briefer, when Trump said he didn’t know about the bounties. The briefer, it was suggested, may not have emphasized the importance of this correctly.
2.) Another possible answer: America’s foreign policy is now firmly, decidedly pro-Russian. That could explain that administration's simply ignoring such an egregious and sneaky hostile act, by a country that pretty much everyone in intelligence and the State Department thinks is a bad actor. But what really needs answering: What is this 180 degree flip in the U.S. posture toward Russia all about? What’s the reason for it? What the heck is the Putin/Trump Bromance all about?
In the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about all the explanations we can find for this bizarre switch in American treatment of Russia. So far, I’m aware of five possible reasons, but there could be more. Send me your favorite if you have one. No matter how you analyze it, Trump’s lovefest with Russia is really, really bad U.S. policy. It’s one of the reasons the rest of the world is laughing at us, or crying over our stupidity.
3.) There is a third possible reason that Trump made this unprecedented move to protect a country that’s putting a bounty on our troops. (Intelligence actually found the guy who was bringing the payments; he had $500,000 worth of Afghan currency in his house.) It could be that this is part of some great plan that will bring honor to the U.S.: that Trump is truly the brilliant strategist he seems to think he is. I’m not betting on that one, but you can if you like.