Putin’s Russia secretly offered Afghan militants money to kill US soldiers

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File photo of Presidents Trump and Putin following reports of Russia’s interference in US election to help Trump win against Clinton.

Outrage over lack of response from Trump administration and president’s subsequent push to readmit Russia to G7

File photo of Presidents Trump and Putin following reports of Russia’s interference in US election to help Trump win against Clinton.

American officials say that Russian military intelligence units secretly offered money to militants connected to the Taliban to kill US troops, even as peace talks were underway, according to reports. 

The New York Times said on Friday that officials briefed on the matter were told that a Russian unit was covertly offering rewards for successful attacks on coalition forces as recently as last year.

President Donald Trump was briefed on the matter, and the National Security Council discussed the findings of American intelligence sources in an interagency meeting in late March.

A number of potential responses were discussed by officials, ranging from a formal diplomatic complaint to Moscow, to escalating sanctions. The White House has not yet authorised any action.

The lack of any response from the Trump administration to Russia‘s reported covert operations, that may have led to the deaths of Americans, has sparked outrage. After being briefed on the report, the president pushed for Russia’s readmittance to the G7 and said that “getting along with Russia is a great thing”.

David Rothkopf, a former official in the Clinton administration, described the president’s actions as “traitorous behaviour” and part of a pattern of consistently helping Russia.

Brian Schatz, Democratic senator for Hawaii, also tweeted about the reported revelations having asked his staff if there was any context that might make them less shocking, “The answer was no”.

Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019. The paper said that while militants are believed to have collected some of the bounty money, it is unclear if any of the deaths are being further investigated.

The US and Taliban agreed a peace deal in late February that would lead to a phased withdrawal of US troops after nearly 20 years.

This would be a huge escalation in the so-called “hybrid war” that Russia is engaged in against the US that has to date included cyber attacks, fake news, and other covert operations.

Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for President Vladimir Putin says that the Kremlin has not been made aware of the accusations.

“If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Mr Peskov told The Times.

A spokesperson for the Taliban denied the findings.

Zabihullah Mujahid said: “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,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

There has been no comment on the report from the Trump administration.

The Independent