After Trump Called It A Hoax, Pompeo Warns Russians Against Offering Bounties To Kill US Troops

The late June 'Russian bounties in Afghanistan' story lasted no longer than a mere week given that some of the very publications pushing it were forced to walk it back based on not only key claims not bearing out, but a slew of top intel officials and Pentagon generals saying it was baseless. 

And then like many other 'Russiagate'-inspired narratives (in this case Trump was accused of essentially 'looking the other way' while Russians supposedly paid the Taliban to kill US troops), it was memory-holed. 

But this apparently hasn't stopped the State Department or the Pentagon from using it as leverage while talking to the Russians. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that "there will be an enormous price to pay" if the Kremlin did indeed pay Afghan fighters to attack Americans or other Westerners

Pompeo revealed the warning in an interview with Radio Free Europe on Wednesday:

"That’s what I shared with Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov," Pompeo said. "I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well. We won’t brook that; we won’t tolerate that."

Russia has of course, denied involvement in any such operation, which many analysts have pointed out would carry major risk of stoking military conflict with the United States but with little positive gain in the region.

Pompeo also said in the interview: "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."

Importantly, it marks the first time any US official has broached the Russian bounties story with a Kremlin officials.

But again, it's somewhat strange given the US administration (and multiple US intelligence agencies) has repeatedly denied that it has any merit. Trump has gone so far as to all it a "hoax". Thus Pompeo's message to the Russians appears a pure tactic for achieving leverage.

Or alternately, it could be that Pompeo is just plain undermining Trump on this one.