So says Charlie Savage, a reliable security issues reporter on the forever wars:
... the administration stopped short of inflicting sanctions on any Russian officials over the suspected bounties, making clear that the available evidence about what happened — primarily what Afghan detainees told interrogators — continues to fall short of definitively proving the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia likely paid money to reward attacks.
The intelligence community, a senior administration official told reporters, “assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, and perhaps earlier, including through financial incentives and compensation.”
Naturally Joe Biden, many Democrats, and partisans like me were easily convinced by the idea. Trump had some kind of suck-up relationship with Putin. He had never been known to show any care for anyone's well-being but his own. Plus, for those of us who'd made an effort to understand the Afghanistan morass, it didn't seem far-fetched to wonder whether Russia might simply be replicating a tactic our own CIA had used while egging on jihadist fighters against Russian occupation in the 1980s.
It was all too neat and too convincing.
Jeff Schogol who reports for military readers explains:
As the Democratic presidential candidate, Biden repeatedly hammered Trump for not taking action about the intelligence on the bounties, accusing Trump of failing in his responsibilities as commander in chief.
... But defense officials consistently told lawmakers and others that the Russian bounty reports could not be corroborated. In December, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview that intelligence officials had been unable to prove the information about the alleged bounties.
“I relentlessly query my intelligence people on this,” McKenzie told Katie Bo Williams, who was a Defense One reporter at the time. “We just don’t see it — but it’s not because we’re not looking at it. We’re looking at it very hard.”
Now it appears the Biden administration doesn’t see it either.
I'm not happy to have joined the bandwagon on this one -- or any one.