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RALEIGH, NC — Cal Cunningham, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served three tours, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, issued the following statement on reports that Russia secretly offered Taliban-linked militants bounties for the killing of American troops:
“If these reports are true, this is a very serious, hostile act by Russia against our troops and our mission in Afghanistan, and an escalation of conflict against our country. The Senate must immediately hold hearings to determine what we know, when we knew it, and what our nation’s proper response should be to Russia’s acts. We need accountability, not excuses.
“If it is also true that the President was aware of this intelligence and did not act, he owes a full accounting to the American people and particularly to the troops who are in harm’s way and the families that count on our commander in chief to make sound decisions to keep them safe. Many of these troops are stationed in and deploy out of military installations here in North Carolina.
“If the President was not briefed by administration officials about Russia’s hostile acts, then the American people also need a full accounting of this failure within the administration. In either event, the administration appears to be compromising the safety of U.S. troops and the protection of U.S. interests in Afghanistan in its failure to hold Russia to account.
“While we get to the bottom of these questions, Russia should not be elevated and included in the G7.
“As a veteran, protecting our troops will always be personal to me. In the Senate, I’ll never waver when it comes to keeping America safe, and every decision of war and peace I make will be made with consideration for our troops serving overseas and their families here at home.
“We owe it to the families of the 22 service members killed in Afghanistan last year, and those serving there now, answers to these questions and a national security policy worthy of the sacrifices our nation has called on them to make.”