Russia Spies Aided Taliban Attacks, US Intel Says

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Intelligence researchers briefed United States officials on an alleged Russian unit that offers bounties to militants if they target and kill USA and coalition troops.

The assessment of the role played by Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, in fostering attacks on American soldiers, comes as President Trump is pushing the Pentagon to withdraw a significant portion of US forces from Afghanistan and as USA diplomats try to forge a peace accord involving the Taliban and the USA -backed Afghan government.

"The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe meant to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks previous year", The Times explained.

The Times said Taliban-linked militants, or "armed criminal elements closely associated with them", collected some of the money.

Of the 20 Americans killed in combat in 2019, the Times said, it was not clear which deaths were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said.

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

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The "baseless and anonymous accusations", published by the newspaper, had "already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington D.C. and London", the Russian Embassy in Washington wrote on Twitter.

Its contents were reported earlier Friday by the New York Times.

The White House, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

While some of his closest advisers have counseled more hawkish policies toward Russia, Trump has adopted an accommodating stance toward Moscow.

The report said the determination by intelligence officials is based, at least in part, on interrogations of captured Afghan fighters and individuals accused of crimes in the country. The Taliban in Afghanistan also denied the report, essentially saying it was killing Americans on its own accord without instigation from Russian Federation but "that changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don't attack them".

The Times reported that US officials were not sure how high in the Russian government the covert operation had been approved and what its goal could be.

U.S. officials have previously accused Russian Federation of providing small arms and other support to the Taliban.

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