Pompeo did not say which military leader spoke with the Russian military about the program, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We will do everything we need to do to protect and defend every American soldier and, for that matter, every soldier from the Czech Republic or any other country that’s part of the Resolute Support Mission to make sure that they’re safe,” Pompeo continued.
Pompeo’s comments mark the first time a senior member of the administration has publicly acknowledged discussing the bounties with the Russian government. By contrast, Trump said in a recent interview with Axios that he never confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the matter.
The New York Times first reported in June about the existence of a CIA assessment that Russian operatives had secretly offered and paid bounties to militants to incentivize more frequent attacks on American and coalition troops in Afghanistan in the months leading up to the historic peace agreement announced in February. The White House claimed that Trump was briefed on the intelligence, but the president has dismissed the reports as a “Russian hoax.”
Asked about Trump’s remarks in the Axios interview, Pompeo declined to comment on whether the president was briefed or not, and defended Trump’s handling of the situation.
“President Trump has in every case that any one of his national security team has come to him to say, ‘Sir, we’ve got a concern we’re not doing enough here, we can do more here, here’s another risk,’ the president has taken that on board seriously and we have responded in a way that is not only completely appropriate, but it’s kept our people safe,” Pompeo said.
The top U.S. general in the Middle East told reporters that he’s skeptical over the intelligence that bounties had been paid.
“I found it very worrisome. I didn’t find that there was a causative link there,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in early July.