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Suspicions of Russian bounties were bolstered by data on financial transfers to a Taliban-linked account

The New York Times reports:

American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, which was among the evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence.

Though the United States has accused Russia of providing general support to the Taliban before, analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that detainees described during interrogations. Investigators also identified by name numerous Afghans in a network linked to the suspected Russian operation, the officials said — including, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an intermediary for distributing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Russia.

The intercepts bolstered the findings gleaned from the interrogations, helping reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees. The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump. In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports:

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019. [Continue reading…]

Politico reports:

Russian forces are encroaching on U.S. troop-controlled territory in eastern Syria — part of what officials say is a deliberate campaign to squeeze the U.S. military out of the region, according to two current U.S. officials and one former U.S. official.

The growing friction between U.S. and Russian troops in Syria comes against a backdrop of deepening mistrust between the national security community and President Donald Trump’s White House over dealings with Moscow. The tension burst into the open last week with revelations that Russia’s secretive military intelligence service offered bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Lawmakers demanded answers this week amid bipartisan anger that the Trump administration has known about the bounties for months but has not yet authorized a response to Russia.

Trump has denied being briefed on the bounties, but a Western defense official confirmed the arrangement to POLITICO. Other administration officials have said the intelligence is still being evaluated and have criticized the media for reporting on the issue. [Continue reading…]

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