Russian intelligence officers offered cash rewards to Taliban fighters for killing US and British troops in Afghanistan, according to the source.

The official was unclear as to Russia’s precise motivation, but said the incentives, in his assessment, had led to coalition casualties. The official did not specify the date of the victims, their number or nationality, or if they were fatalities or injuries.

“This callous approach to the GRU is surprising and reprehensible. Their motivation is puzzling,” said the official.

US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered rewards amid peace talks, the New York Times reported Friday.

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.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Saturday that President and Vice President Mike Pence were not informed “about the alleged Russian reward intelligence.”

McEnany said his statement “does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story,” which said Trump had been informed.

McEnany did not deny the validity of US intelligence reported that a Russian intelligence unit offered rewards to Taliban-linked militants for carrying out attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

National intelligence director John Ratcliffe said in his own statement Saturday night that “he had confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president was informed of any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its report yesterday.”

He added: “The White House statement on this issue earlier today, denying that such information occurred, was accurate. The New York Times report and all other subsequent news reports on such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”

CNN has contacted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for additional comment. CNN has also reached out to 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 European official told CNN that Russian intelligence officers worked for the GRU unit known as 29155, which European intelligence officials previously blamed for the assassination attempts on Sergei Skripal, a former KGB agent who had been recruited years earlier by British intelligence, and his daughter in 2018 in Salisbury, UK, and other prominent attacks in Europe.

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.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday that the Trump presidency was a “gift” to Putin, referring to the New York Times report at a city council focused on issues of the Asia-Pacific islands of the United States. “It is a betrayal of all American families with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere abroad. I am frankly outraged by the report, and if I am elected president, make no mistake, Vladimir Putin will face it.” ”

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, on Saturday asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to enact legislation sanctioning Russia to vote on the chamber floor.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the highest-ranking Republican in Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives, said in a statement Saturday that “he immediately contacted the Administration,” adding that if the allegations in the New York Times report are Certain, the administration “must take quick action.” and serious actions to hold the Putin regime accountable. “

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.

This story has been updated with additional reaction, a statement from the White House press secretary, information from a European intelligence official, and A statement from the Director of National Intelligence.

CNN’s Karen Smith, Sarah Mucha, Nicky Robertson and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.