US investigating unconfirmed intel that China offered bounties on American troops

BEN GITTLESON
·1 min read

The Trump administration is declassifying intelligence, so far unconfirmed, that indicates China offered bounties to non-state actors to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official.

President Donald Trump has been briefed about the uncorroborated intelligence, the official said.

Axios first reported on the intelligence on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, on Thursday denied the accusation, calling it a "smear and slander against China" that was "completely nonsense" and "fake news."

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, Jr., Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component Commander, is greeted at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan  during a visit   on Feb. 24, 2020.  (Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Demott/U.S. Air Forces Central Command )
PHOTO: U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, Jr., Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component Commander, is greeted at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan during a visit on Feb. 24, 2020. (Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Demott/U.S. Air Forces Central Command )

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The declassification comes as the Trump administration attempts to maintain pressure on China during the president's final few weeks in office.

U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien verbally briefed the president about the intelligence, which was also included in a briefing for Trump on Dec. 17, according to the official.

PHOTO: National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien attends a briefing on Enhanced Narcotics Operations at the US Southern Command in Doral, Florida, on July 10, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien attends a briefing on Enhanced Narcotics Operations at the US Southern Command in Doral, Florida, on July 10, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The official said different U.S. government agencies were working to corroborate the initial intelligence.

The administration has taken a strikingly different approach to this uncorroborated intelligence, declassifying it and confirming it was working to confirm it, compared with the White House's strong pushback when The New York Times reported over the summer that Trump had been briefed on an intelligence assessment that Russia had been doing the same -- offering bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Porter, a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, finishes an engine startup at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, April 28, 2020.  (Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz/U.S. Air Forces Central Command )
PHOTO: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Porter, a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster, finishes an engine startup at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, April 28, 2020. (Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz/U.S. Air Forces Central Command )

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At the time, Trump dismissed the report as a "hoax," and the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, criticized the Times and downplayed the underlying intelligence as unverified.

Instead of now pushing back, as it did in the case of the report about Russia, the administration is using the intelligence to more publicly go after China, which Trump has portrayed as a greater foe than Russia.

US investigating unconfirmed intel that China offered bounties on American troops originally appeared on abcnews.go.com