Last week, Cal convened a Zoom call with members of “Veterans & Military Families For Cal” to demand accountability following the New York Times reporting of Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Cal Cunningham, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served three active duty tours, including in Iraq and Afghanistan said: “As someone who took the oath to defend the Constitution and who has served in Afghanistan, the recent reports of Russian bounties on American troops has stopped me in my tracks.”
As the Fayetteville Observer reports, Cal made clear that if he were in the Senate today, he would “march to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. ‘to demand answers on behalf of the thousands of service members who call North Carolina home.’”
Spectrum News’ Kevin Frey also reported on the event: “[Cal] also said that North Carolinian servicemembers deserve more from their current senator — Thom Tillis.”
Cal has called for Senate hearings “to determine who knew what and when, to understand what the intelligence shows and to provide a full account to the American people, troops and military families.” and “until investigations are complete, Russia should not be included in the international economic agency the Group of 7, and there should be a pause on removing troops from Germany.”
State Senator Kirk deViere, whose district includes Fort Bragg, joined Cal on the Zoom and shared that “he’s heard from local veterans who are frustrated about the matter ‘shaking their heads not understanding what’s going on.’ They need answers, he said.”
For Cal, protecting U.S. troops is personal. He believes that “we owe them a national security policy that is worthy of the sacrifices that we as a nation call on them to make.”
Watch more from the event.
Fayetteville Observer: Senate candidate calls for accountability after reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops
By Rachael Riley – July 3, 2020
- A U.S. Senate candidate who has deployed to Afghanistan in the past is demanding action following reports that a Russian military unit was involved in issuing bounties on the lives of American service members.
- The New York Times first reported June 26 that American intelligence officials determined Russians offered the bounties to Talibian-linked militants, with the reports confirmed by intelligence officials to the Associated Press on June 28.
- A spokesman for the Taliban denied the claims to the Times, and a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian officials were not aware of the accusations.
- Cal Cunningham, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican Thom Tillis in North Carolina’s Senate election in November, called the reports disturbing during a video meeting with veterans and military families Thursday.
- “As someone who took the oath to defend the Constitution and who has served in Afghanistan, the recent reports of Russian bounties on American troops has stopped me in my tracks,” Cunningham said.
- Cunningham is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who has served three active-duty tours.
- With military installations in North Carolina — including Fort Bragg — that send troops to Afghanistan, Cunningham said the reports should be investigated.
- He said if the Trump administration knew about the reports and Cunningham is elected to in the Senate, he would march to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “to demand answers on behalf of the thousands of service members who call North Carolina home.”
- “Unfortunately, all we’ve seen from our senator is a single Tweet,” Cunningham said.
- Republican members of the House, including Reps. Mac Thornberry of Texas and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were briefed about the matter Monday by senior White House officials.
- Thornberry is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
- Thornberry and Cheney issued a joint statement after the meeting saying they “remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces.”
- “It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” Thornberry and Cheney said. “We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces.”
- Cunningham cited reports from Wednesday that indicated American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from Russia’s intelligence agency to a bank account linked to the Taliban.
- He called on the Senate to convene hearings to determine who knew what and when, to understand what the intelligence shows and to provide a full account to the American people, troops and military families.
- He said until investigations are complete, Russia should not be included in the international economic agency the Group of 7, and there should be a pause on removing troops from Germany.
- “Ensuring the safety of our troops is our duty, and protecting our troops is always going to be very personal to me,” Cunningham said.
- State Sen. Kirk deViere, whose district includes Fort Bragg, said he’s heard from local veterans who are frustrated about the matter “shaking their heads not understanding what’s going on.” They need answers, he said.
- “We’ve got friends and families and neighbors in Cumberland County that were put in harm’s way during this Russian interference … ,” deViere said. “Our troops and Americans deserve transparency when it comes to this.”
- Cunningham said the information should be examined first, which is why he is calling for hearings to examine the evidence and determine the nation’s “proper response.”
- “We need accountability, not excuses,” he said.