National Security

Russians may have paid Taliban to kill U.S. troops

The president says he has not been briefed on it.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A report leaked Friday by American intelligence officials theorizes that a Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to Taliban forces for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan. That includes American troops. This supposedly happened amid the peace talks to end the war there.

U.S. intel theorized months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked by the media to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Armed criminal elements closely associated with the Taliban are believed to have collected bounty money, the leak alleges. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019.

Intelligence officials supposedly developed a menu of options, starting with making a complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the leaked info claims.

The Kremlin had not been made aware of the charges, said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Mr. Peskov said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that they have “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame them. “These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources. That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

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“Nobody briefed or told me, @VP  Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source’ by the Fake News @nytimes,” President Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.” The president said that the latest report was “[p]robably just another phony Times hit job.”

This was essentially the same tack as a statement from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who said he “confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday.”

Joe Biden commented, “Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”

The president struck back hard and effectively: “Funny to see Corrupt Joe Biden reading a statement on Russia, which was obviously written by his handlers. Russia ate his and Obama’s lunch during their time in office, so badly that Obama wanted them out of the then G-8. U.S. was weak on everything, but especially Russia!”

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