New York Times: US Intelligence Says Russia Offers Rewards to Afghan Militants for Killing US Troops

Citing informed officials on the matter, the Times reported that President Donald Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and that the White House National Security Council held a meeting on the matter in late March.

CNN has contacted the NSC, the Defense Department, the State Department and the CIA, and has received no comment.

According to the Times, the Trump administration held expanded briefings on the intelligence assessment this week and shared information about it with the British government, whose forces are also believed to have been attacked.

The newspaper reported that officials thought of possible responses, including starting with a diplomatic complaint to Moscow, a demand for cessation and sanctions, but the White House has yet to authorize any action.

The Russian embassy in Washington, DC, denounced the Times report on Friday as “unfounded allegations” that have led to death threats against Russian diplomats in Washington and London.

“In the absence of reasons for #BlameRussians,” the Times is making up “new false stories,” the embassy wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban also rejected the Times report that they were offered rewards from Russia for attacking US troops in Afghanistan.

“We strongly reject this accusation. The Jihad of the Islamic Emirate for nineteen years is not indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence agency or foreign country and the Islamic Emirate does not need anyone to specify targets either,” said the spokesman for the militant group Zabihullah Mujahid. . he said in a statement Saturday.

In its covert operation, the Russian spy unit within the GRU intelligence agency had offered rewards for successful attacks last year, and Islamist militants, or armed criminal associates, are believed to have raised reward money, the Times reported.

The United States concluded that the GRU was behind the interference in the 2016 U.S. election and cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and top Democratic officials. The Russian military agency has also been accused by the West of assassination attempts and poison attacks in Europe in recent years.

The Times reported that the motivations behind the operation are unclear and there is uncertainty about how far into the Kremlin the operation was authorized.

The US intelligence assessment is said to have been based in part on the interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals, according to the newspaper.

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, tweeted that “Russia is not a partner, and should not be negotiated with,” and that Trump “needs to expose and manage this immediately. , and stop Russia’s shadow war conflict. “
Trump has sought to improve relations between Washington and Moscow and shares an unusually warm relationship with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

But Trump and his administration point to U.S. sanctions against Russia, arguing that it has been tougher on the country than previous presidents.

During a 2018 press conference alongside Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump, in a dazzling move for a U.S. president, refused to accept U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, instead of aligning with Putin’s denials.
Last month, Trump said he wanted to invite Russia to the G7 summit, despite Russia’s 2014 suspension of the working group of major industrial nations over its annexation of Crimea.
In February, the United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in Dohar, Qatar, setting in motion the possible total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the possible end of the longest US war.

US troops are currently serving in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist, and advise Afghan forces and focus on counter-terrorism operations targeting local ISIS affiliate and al-Qaeda.

The Trump administration is close to finalizing a decision to withdraw more than 4,000 soldiers from Afghanistan by the fall, according to two administration officials. The measure would reduce the number of troops from 8,600 to 4,500 and would be the lowest number since the first days of the war in Afghanistan.

CNN’s Radina Gigova and Karen Smith contributed to this report.