WASHINGTON — Leading Republican lawmakers on Monday confirmed that U.S. intelligence agencies have developed information about a Russian military operation targeting U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. But they said that any U.S. response should wait until intelligence agencies fully review the material, some of which was shared with members of Congress in a classified briefing at the White House.
Current and former intelligence officials familiar with the intelligence said it was less ambiguous than White House officials and some lawmakers have portrayed and indicated that Russian military intelligence had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants who killed U.S. military personnel.
The CIA in particular has been analyzing the intelligence for several months and has assessed that the Russian program is real, according to these people.
In a statement Monday evening, CIA Director Gina Haspel did not address the intelligence directly, nor did she dispute reports that it showed the Russians targeting U.S. forces.
"When developing intelligence assessments, initial tactical reports often require additional collection and validation," Haspel said, adding that "in general" information that may protect military forces "is shared throughout the national security community – and with U.S. allies – as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of coalition forces overseas."
Without mentioning Russia or Afghan militants by name, Haspel said, "Hostile states' use of proxies in war zones to inflict damage on U.S. interests and troops is a constant, longstanding concern. CIA will continue to pursue every lead; analyze the information we collect with critical, objective eyes; and brief reliable intelligence to protect U.S. forces deployed around the world."
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe in a separate statement also did not mention Russia and said the intelligence community was "still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting and we will brief the President and Congressional leaders at the appropriate time. This is the analytic process working the way it should."
Haspel and Ratcliffe criticized leaks of classified information, which they said made it harder for the intelligence agencies to collect and assess information.