Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he has raised U.S. concerns of threats Russia poses to American interests throughout the world, including in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Ukraine to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, but refused to be specific about any of them.
“I want to be very careful about what’s public record and what’s intelligence based, but yes, I can assure you and the American people each time I’ve spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov I’ve raised all of the issues that put any American interests at risk,” Pompeo said to New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez during a foreign relations committee hearing.
“Whether that’s our soldiers on the ground in Syria, soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, the activities that were taking place in Libya, the actions in Ukraine, each and every one of these that potentially threaten American interests are things that I raised in my conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov and I speak with him with some frequency.”
The remarks came in response to a question from Menendez if Pompeo had discussed with Russian officials the reports that some U.S. intelligence analysts had come to the conclusion that Russia intelligence had paid bonuses, or bounties, to Taliban-affiliated Islamic militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
A month ago, the Pentagon claimed there was “no corroborating evidence” to support the claim of bounties, reported first by the New York Times.
Menendez apparently was not satisfied with Pompeo’s answer, and asked the question a second time, this time getting a rebuke from the secretary of state.
“Senator, I’m going to be more careful than you’re being with respect to the intelligence,” Pompeo replied. “I’m going to tell you that, make no mistake about it, the proper people have been aware of every threat to our soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, whether that was Gen. (Austin) Miller, or my team at the embassy there in Kabul.”
“Any time there was a tactical threat on the lives or the health or the safety or the security or our assets in place, we have raised this with our Russian counterparts, not only at my level, but Ambassador (to Russia John) Sullivan, and every one of our team that interacts with the Russians. We’ve made very clear our expectations.”
Pompeo’s comment came two days after President Donald Trump said he had not raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the New York Times reported the claim citing anonymous sources on June 26.
The Associated Press reported shortly after the Times story that the White House said Trump had not been briefed on the intelligence because it had not been verified.