A recently released media report stated that Russian military intelligence offered fighters linked with the Taliban money in exchange for killing US troops and other NATO members operating in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Russia have denied these allegations. The report, first posted by the New York Times, said that US intelligence officials discovered that the Russian unit had covertly offered rewards to these same fighters in exchange for successful attacks on Americans last year. According to officials, it is believed that the Taliban-linked fighters did collected at least some reward money from Russian agents. It is still not known if these attacks were connected to this scheme. Last year, twenty US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. However, since the US and the Taliban reached an agreement in February, there have been no reported Taliban attacks on US soldiers positioned in Afghanistan. This agreement made earlier this year is the beginning of US withdraw from the region after a 20-year conflict.
On Saturday, Russia denied the accusations with a tweet from the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC that called the accusations “baseless and anonymous.” The tweet also mentioned that these accusations had “already led to direct threats to the [lives] of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington DC and London.” Additionally, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told the New York Times the group has not had “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and claimed that these accusations were made in an attempt to discredit the group. “These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless-our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources…That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them” Mujahid added.
The report does not cite its information directly and is therefore difficult to trust its accusations. For the sake of the relations and people in Afghanistan, it may be best to take this report with a large grain of salt. With or without this report of targeting Americans and other NATO officials in Afghanistan, the best action to take is still to get the remaining US troops out of Afghanistan.
There has been a US presence in Afghanistan for the past 20 years combating the Taliban and terrorism. Tensions in the area and between the US and the Taliban have heightened over the past 20 years. In February of this year, a deal was struck between the US and the Taliban that is seen to be the first step towards possible peace in Afghanistan. This will hopefully be the first step in withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and a slowdown of violence in the region as well. By all credible account, the Taliban has not broken their end of the deal in the months since it was made and all representatives of the group have stated that they intend to hold up their end of the agreement. Additionally, they have denied these allegations.
The implications for the US-Russia relationship are a little different than those with the Taliban. American officials have tied the Russian intelligence agency in question previous assassinations attempts and other operations in Europe meant to disrupt Western powers. However, they have never been linked to orchestrated attacks in Western troops before, according to a US intelligence report. The US and Afghan governments have also accused Russia of supporting the Taliban in previous situations. However, if this allegation were true, it would mean a major intensification in Russia’s involvement. The report did say that the determination by intelligence officials is at least partly based on the interrogations of captured Afghan fighters and others accused of crimes in Afghanistan. Though the truth of the report is still not entirely certain, unnamed US officials told the New York Times that Trump and the National Security Council had been notified of this intelligence in March, but has not yet acted on it in order to preserve the relationship with Russia.
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