On June 26th, the New York Times published a report saying U.S. Intelligence and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted the administration in January on the Russian plot to pay bounties on American soldiers. However, the White House and the Director of National Intelligence denied allegations of being informed of Russia’s payment to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. President Trump said this report was not credible and was not reported to him. Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as well.
Trump rejected the allegations by saying it was “possibly another fabricated Russian hoax” and tweeted “Nobody briefed or told me, Mike Pence, or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.” He called on the newspaper to name its anonymous source and added: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or VP.”
His opponent, Biden criticized him for “failing to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law.” He later added that “it’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.” Biden was not the only critic, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that it was “totally outrageous” that Trump did not act to protect American lives.
Against these allegations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said “This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense.” And a Taliban spokesman rejected it by saying that militants “are not indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country.”
This news will affect the U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal made earlier this year. The deal calls on the Taliban to end their attacks against the U.S. and their allies. However, this casts doubt on the seriousness of the militant group about the peace deal. In a way, it also justifies the worries of Afghan officials. If the U.S. carries on with the peace deal they made with the Taliban, it will risk the lives of Afghan people and the existence of the Afghan government. This can be a warning for the U.S. to re-examine the deal made with the militant group. The war in Afghanistan was started by the U.S., therefore the U.S. has the responsibility to end it for the best interest of the Afghan people.
The NYT’s report suggests that U.S. intelligence knew that Russia’s military intelligence was offering bounties to Islamist militants as rewards for successful attacks that killed American soldiers in the fall of 2019, while the U.S. and Taliban were talking about ending the war. The report stated that U.S. intelligence officials informed Trump on the issue and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting in late March. Similar to NYT, CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers offered award money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan if they killed U.S. or U.K. troops. A U.S. official confirmed to CNN that there was intelligence on the money transfer made, but it is not clear how this intelligence was verified.
Since 2001, more than 2,400 U.S. service members died during the conflict. In the last five years, 2019 had the highest death of military members with the killing of 23. These death were preventable however, nothing was done to stop it. According to NYT and the Associated Press, U.S. military and intelligence officials will review previous attacks to see whether they were tied to Russia’s rewarding program.