Amid intelligence reports of possible Russian rewards for Taliban fighters who kill Americans in Afghanistan, the father of a Marine who died in a roadside bomb attack last year wants answers.
Erik Hendriks’ 25-year-old son, Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks was one of three Marines who died in the bomb attack on a convoy outside of Bagram Airfield.
Hendriks said he learned of reports of possible payments to Taliban-linked militants in a call by a journalist on Monday.
If the reports are true, “that would break my heart,” Hendriks said in an interview Tuesday. “It would be terrible”.
Robert A. Hendriks, his father calls him Robby, was killed on April 8, 2019, while conducting combat operations in Parwan province, the Defense Department said. Sgt. Were also killed. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, and Sgt. Christopher KA Slutman, 43.
NBC News has not confirmed a link between the April 2019 bomb attack and any alleged offer of rewards by Russian intelligence officials. Two senior administration officials said Monday that the White House does not believe there is a link.
Hendricks said he has had no direct news from the president. “Why hasn’t anyone called me or my ex-wife to settle us? Isn’t it enough that we’re going through that nobody has submitted anything at all?” I ask. “It is really horrible.”
Since the end of last week, various media outlets, including NBC News, reported that the United States has gathered intelligence that Russian intelligence officials have offered to pay rewards to Taliban fighters who kill Americans. The news was first reported on Friday by The New York Times.
The White House has denied that President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence have been informed of the matter.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also denied Saturday night that Trump had been informed. Trump tweeted Sunday that “Intel just informed me that they did not find this credible information” and that therefore neither he nor Pence had been informed.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that the president has been briefed. “But that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that has not yet been verified,” he said.
An official familiar with intelligence said it shows that US service members and Afghan civilians died as a result of Russian payments to the Taliban, but other officials said the intelligence has not been substantiated.
A person with direct knowledge of intelligence told NBC News that the White House and senior National Security Council officials learned that intelligence indicated that Russia was offering rewards to US and coalition troops early last year. .
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said senior officials told lawmakers in the White House Situation Room on Monday that “no one had been killed” as a result of Russia’s reward offer. But other US officials have said it is unclear, and others have said that the Russian effort may, in fact, have led to death.
Russia has denied the allegations, as have the Taliban. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the reports of such a program “ridiculous” and “100 percent bulls —“.
Hendriks, speaking on the phone from his home in Glen Cove, New York, which is located on Long Island, said Tuesday that he is awaiting the events.
“I am waiting to see if there is a smoking gun,” he said. “Is anyone going to step forward and know this for a fact?”
Download the NBC News app for news and alerts
Hendriks said his questions are not based on politics. He said he has not voted since Ross Perot ran for president during the 1990s. He said he leans toward Trump and likes the president’s message to withdraw troops in Afghanistan, but he is also concerned that it may destabilize the region and put Americans at risk of home attacks.
Hendriks sometimes spoke in tears. He said he wants to keep the focus on his son and his son’s service to the country.
Hendriks said former Defense Secretary James Mattis sent him a handwritten letter calling his son “Marine of the Navy.”
The answers would help Hendriks find peace. “Seeing if this is true is doing Robby justice,” he said.