Afghan Taliban militants were offered bounties by a Russian military intelligence to kill US soldiers, New York Times reports.
Citing U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence, New York Times reports that Russia last year offered and paid money to Taliban militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan, noting that 20 U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2019, though it’s not clear which were linked to the bounties.
During a meeting in late March, the White House reportedly discussed a response, including a demand for Russia to end the practice and an imposition of new sanctions, but no action has been taken, with talks expanding recently, including informing the United Kingdom of the intelligence.
The newspaper quoted a Kremlin spokesman saying only that Russia was unaware of the accusations.
Russia has a tortured history in Afghanistan, where the former Soviet Union in its final years was bogged down in a devastating fight against Islamic guerrillas, then backed by Washington.
President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the Times the government wasn’t aware of the accusation and that, “If someone makes them, we’ll respond.”
The action coincides with ongoing disruption by Russia on U.S. social media sites, as well as a peace agreement between America and the Taliban in late February that seeks to withdraw troops in the region within 14 months if parameters are met.