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Report: Russia paid Taliban bounties for killing US troops

Soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan. (1st Lt. Verniccia Ford/U.S. Army)
June 26, 2020

U.S. intelligence officials found that a Russian intelligence group secretly offered the Taliban rewards for killing coalition forces – including Americans — in Afghanistan.

Officials close to the matter told New York Times on Friday that the Russian intelligence unit had given the Taliban bounty money for successful attacks on coalition forces, though the number of paid bounty attacks was not clear.

In 2019, 20 Americans were killed in combat incidents in Afghanistan, and some may have been attacks for which the Taliban was paid by the Russian unit.

The Russian intelligence unit has been linked to previous assassination attempts, as well as destabilization efforts in Europe and revenge attacks. However, it is the first known instance of Russian intelligence facilitating attacks on U.S. troops.

President Trump was briefed on the U.S. intelligence officials’ findings earlier this year, and the findings were also discussed among the White House National Security Council, the officials claimed. A plan of potential responses were discussed, but the officials said the White House has not yet authorized a response.

Broader briefings on the findings were held this week, and the Trump administration also shared its findings with the British government, whose military service members were also targeted in Russian bounty attacks, the officials said.

At least some of the U.S. intelligence officials’ findings is based on information extracted from captured Afghan militants.

U.S. and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of destabilizing activities, such as providing weapons and other resources to the Taliban. Russia, however, has denied such involvement.