According to the New York Times, Pompeo “did not explicitly point to the covert bounties scheme,” but “made it clear to Mr. Lavrov in language about payouts and red lines that the United States was strongly opposed to the program.”
The comment reportedly happened on a July 13 phone call between the two diplomats about potentially convening the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which includes the US and Russia, but also the UK, France and China.
In late June, the Times reported that interrogations of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan had yielded information about a Russian intelligence operation that ostensibly offered cash payments to Taliban fighters for killing US soldiers stationed in the country.
The report offered no concrete evidence and has been contested by the Pentagon and intelligence community, as well as the Russian government and the Taliban itself, which said the rumors were an attempt to sabotage the peace deal with Washington that will soon see US troops exit the country for good.
Pompeo’s comment is notable because it stands in sharp contrast to those by US President Donald Trump, who has called the story a “hoax.” However, Trump has also vowed to punish Russia if a Pentagon probe vindicates the report. The US president said he did not discuss the issue in a recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin