The White House denied on Saturday that President Donald Trump was informed of information that would have shown that Russia would have offered bonuses to militants linked to the Taliban if they killed American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The awards would have prompted guerrillas to target U.S. forces, just as Trump is trying to withdraw his troops – fulfilling one of the main demands of activists – and end the longest U.S. war.
It was first reported by the New York Times on Friday. The newspaper, citing anonymous officials, said that Trump had been informed of the results in March, but had not yet decided how to react.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that “neither the president nor the vice president has been informed of the alleged information about the Russian bonuses”.
But she added: “This is not about the merit of the alleged intelligence but the inaccuracy of the New York Times story incorrectly suggesting that President Trump was informed of the matter.”
This left open the possibility that such intelligence exists.
The Taliban denied the report, reiterating that they were committed to an agreement signed with Washington in February that paves the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan by next year.
Activists also said that homemade explosives are the cause of most of the deaths among US forces.
“The nineteen-year-old jihad of the Islamic emirate is not beholden to the benefits of any foreign intelligence agency or country,” the Taliban said in a statement released in Kabul.
The group, widely believed to have received years of support from Pakistani intelligence, also denied earlier US accusations that Russia had given it arms.
“The Islamic emirate has used weapons, facilities and tools … which were already present in Afghanistan or are spoils of war frequently seized by the opposition in battles,” he said.
Russia also denounced the report, with its Washington embassy tweeting that “baseless and anonymous accusations” in the Times had “directly threatened the lives of employees” at embassies in Washington and London.
“Stop producing #fakenews that cause death threats, @nytimes,” he added in a later tweet.
Russia has a tortured history in Afghanistan, where the former Soviet Union in its final years got bogged down in a devastating struggle against the Islamist guerrillas, then supported by Washington.
The New York Times said there were different theories as to why Russia would support the Taliban attacks, including the desire to keep Washington bogged down in the war.
He said Russian unity could also seek revenge for the American murder of Russian mercenaries in Syria, where Moscow supports President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the newspaper, the Taliban operation was led by a unit known as the GRU, which has been implicated in numerous international incidents, including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that nearly killed the double agent of Russian origin Sergei Skripal.
(With the exception of the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)