Carper, Coons, Blunt Rochester Call on DoD, DNI to Brief Congress, Conduct Re-Investigation Regarding Possible Targeting of U.S. Service Members, Including Delawarean, in Afghanistan
Aug 07 2020
Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) sent a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe requesting that their agencies complete a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the April 2019 attack in Afghanistan that took the lives of three U.S. Marines, including a Delaware native. Carper, Coons and Blunt Rochester first called for a bipartisan and classified briefing on this matter in July.
In April 2019, a roadside bomb near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan killed Staff Sergeant Christopher Slutman of Wilmington, Delaware, along with two others, Staff Sergeant Benjamin Hines of York, Pennsylvania, and Sergeant Robert Hendriks of Locust Valley, New York, all of the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. In June, news reports based on leaked information alleged that a Russian intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for targeting American troops in Afghanistan. In addition, the reports alleged a possible connection between the bounty program and the April 2019 attack.
Delaware’s Congressional delegation is asking DOD and DNI to conduct a thorough investigation and provide Congress a comprehensive briefing, stating that families of fallen service members deserve full and unbiased answers regarding the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones. While the administration has provided limited information on the program to individual members of Congress, a full briefing on actions taken by the DOD and DNI to investigate possible connections between the alleged bounty program and the April attack has yet to be provided.
The Delaware lawmakers wrote, “We respectfully request that you quickly provide Congress with a briefing on the matter that allows members to hear from your agencies and ask follow-up questions. Additionally, we ask that your agencies complete a full re-investigation of the circumstances surrounding the April 2019 attack as expeditiously as possible and report your findings as appropriate to the families of our fallen service members and to the American people.”
In addition to the letter sent by Delaware’s congressional delegation, Shannon Slutman, the widow of SSgt Christopher Slutman, included her own letter supporting a more thorough investigation done by a credible agency, rather than through news reports. In her letter, Mrs. Slutman wrote, “I am a seasoned military wife and know there is no way to keep all of our service members safe in a combat zone. There are constant threats that are being analyzed for credibility. I am not looking for someone to blame, I am asking for this incident to be investigated thoroughly by an agency other than the news media. Our family deserves to know if this alleged threat was credible and linked to the death of my husband and fellow Marines.”