Russian intelligence offers Taliban fighters monetary rewards for killing US and British troops in Afghanistan, source says

It was not clear to the official about Russia’s precise motivation, but he said the incentives, according to their assessment, had led to suffering in the coalition. The official did not specify the date of the victims, their number or nationality, or whether they were deaths or injuries.

“This rude approach of the GRU is startling and humiliating. Their motivation is confusing,” the official said.

U.S. intelligence concluded a few months ago that Russian military intelligence offered praise in the midst of peace talks, the New York Times reported Friday.

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

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Saturday that President and Vice President Mike Pence were unaware of “Russia’s alleged wealth.”

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

McEnany did not deny the validity of reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian intelligence unit had offered clashes to Taliban-linked militants to carry out attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said in his own statement late Saturday that he “confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president were informed of the intelligence the New York Times reported in yesterday’s reports.”

He added: “The White House statement that dealt with this issue today, which denied such a meeting, was correct. The reporting of the New York Times and all other subsequent reports on such an alleged briefing are not accurate.”

CNN contacted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for further comment. CNN also contacted the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the CIA, and received no comment.

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

The paper reported that officials were considering possible responses, including starting a diplomatic appeal to Moscow, a request for a suspension and sanctions – but the White House has yet to approve any action.

Russia’s embassy in Washington, DC, on Friday denied the Times report as “unfounded allegations” that led to death threats against Russian diplomats in Washington and London.

“For lack of reason for the #BlameRussians,” the Times invents “new fake stories,” the embassy wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban also rejected a Times report that they were offered rifles from Russia to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“We resolutely reject this claim. The 19-year-old jihad of the Islamic Emirate is not in charge of the welfare of any intelligence body or foreign state, nor does the Islamic Emirate need anyone in setting goals,” militant group spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement Saturday.

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

A European official told CNN that Russian intelligence officers worked for a GRU unit known as 29155, which European intelligence officials had previously accused of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former KGB agent previously recruited by British intelligence. service, and his daughter in 2018 in Salisbury, UK and other prominent attacks in Europe.

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The U.S. has concluded that the GRU is behind interference in the 2016 U.S. election and a cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. The Russian military agency has also been accused by the West of assassination attempts and poisons in Europe in recent years.

The Times reported that the motives behind the operation were unclear and that there was uncertainty as to how far the Kremlin had approved the operation.

The U.S. intelligence assessment is said to be based in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals, according to the paper.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called the Trump presidency a “gift” to Putin, citing a New York Times report at City Hall focusing on Asian American Islands issues. “It is a betrayal of every single American family with a loved one serving in Afghanistan or anywhere abroad. I am sincerely outraged by the report, and if I am elected president, make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin will be confronted.”

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, on Saturday invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will put legislation sanctioning Russia for chamber voting.

Texas spokesman Michael McCaul, a Republican working on foreign affairs at home, said Saturday in a statement that he “immediately reached for the administration,” adding that if the allegations in the New York Times report are true, the administration “will need quick and serious action.” holding Putin’s regime accountable. “

Republican Ambassador Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a veteran of the Air Force who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tweeted that “Russia is not a partner and that they cannot be negotiated with them” and that “Trump” should immediately expose and resolve this and stop the war in the shadow of Russia. “
Trump has sought to improve relations between Washington and Moscow and shares unusually warm relations with him his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

But Trump and his administration point to U.S. sanctions on Russia, arguing that he is tougher on the country than previous presidents.

During a 2018 press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump, in a startling move for U.S. president, refused to accept U.S. intelligence about Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential election, instead appearing to align with Putin’s rejections.
Last month, Trump said he wanted to invite Russia to the G7 summit, despite Russia’s suspension in 2014 from a working group of leading industrialized countries over its annexation of Crimea.
In February, the U.S. and the Taliban signed a historic agreement in Dohar, Qatar, triggering a possible complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a potential end to America’s longest-running war.

U.S. troops are currently serving in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces and focus on counterterrorism operations targeting local ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates.

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

This story has been updated with additional reactions, a statement from the White House spokesman, information from a European official and statement by the director of the National Intelligence Service.

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

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