Russians offered Taliban bounties to kill US troops: Military official

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Russians offered Taliban bounties to kill US troops: Military official
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Russians offered Taliban bounties to kill US troops: Military official
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Russian intelligence officers offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan over the past year, amid peace talks to end the 18-year war there, a military official confirmed to ABC News on Sunday.

U.S. intelligence agencies linked the effort to a Russian intelligence unit suspected of covert action and assassination attempts in Europe, according to The New York Times, which first reported the intelligence findings said to have been presented to President Donald Trump in March.

Last year, 23 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan, but whether any were targeted by Taliban fighters paid by Russian operatives isn’t known, the military official said. The official didn’t know whether Trump was briefed but said other senior U.S. officials learned of the Russian operation “months ago.”

“There is no way to really confirm if it actually worked,” the military official, who’s not authorized to speak on the record about such matters, told ABC News.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment on the veracity of the intelligence report but denied Trump was informed in March.

“While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director, National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence. This does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence but to the inaccuracy of the New York Times story erroneously suggesting that President Trump was briefed on this matter,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement on Sunday.

President Donald Trump himself denied ever being briefed in a tweet published early Sunday morning and added that “nobody has been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration.”

A counterterrorism source confirmed to ABC News, as first reported in the New York Times, that this information first came to light around January after U.S. special operations raids in Afghanistan where cash was found.

There are about 8,600 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan — many are special operations forces — but sources told ABC News it isn’t clear which troops the Russians wanted the Taliban to kill.

The New York Times report also said that no decisions have been made inside the White House for any kind of response.

You can read the rest of James Gordon Meek, Elizabeth Thomas, and Luis Martinez’s article at ABCnews.com

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