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Russia did pay extremists to attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Taliban sources confirm

Business Insider reports:

Taliban commanders have confirmed that Russia has offered financial and material support to its members in exchange for attacking US forces in Afghanistan.

The practice was first reported on Friday by The New York Times, which cited US intelligence officials.

President Donald Trump has since strongly denied that he was told of this intelligence and attacked its credibility, characterizing the existence of Russian bounty payments as fake.

But three separate Taliban sources told Insider they were aware of Russian bounty payments being made — though they said only the less-disciplined elements on the fringes of the group would take up such an offer.

When reached through formal channels, officials with the Taliban — formally called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — declined to comment.

But the three sources all confirmed the practice takes place and that Russian intelligence officials are known to pay. Iran and Pakistan also fund these activities, the sources said.

Two of the sources are actively involved with the Taliban, and one is now a refugee in Greece who entered the country in 2016. All said they personally had not undertaken Russian bounty operations and disparaged the practice in general. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump continued to insist Wednesday that reports of Russia offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan were “fake news,” as his national security adviser disclosed that options had been drawn up to present to Trump on how to respond if the allegations were corroborated.

National security adviser Robert C. O’Brien reiterated during a television interview Wednesday that national security officials decided not to present Trump with unverified intelligence regarding Russia’s purported plans but indicated that they took the situation seriously enough to prepare options for the president.

“If this eventually becomes something that’s proven, or something that we believe, we need to have options for the president to deal with the Russians,” O’Brien said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “I can tell you this, if this information turned out to be true, and now we may never know, but if it turned out to be true, we had options ready to go, and the president was ready to take strong action, as he always is.” [Continue reading…]

Business Insider reports:

The White House denies Trump knew anything about it, saying he was not briefed on the intelligence because officials disagreed on its veracity.

Steve Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the CIA, told Insider the White House’s claim is “horses—” because threat intelligence is treated very differently from other types of sensitive intelligence.

“Ever since 9/11, any time you get any type of counterterrorism or threat reporting that speaks to whether Americans are going to get killed, that sort of information travels extremely quickly and doesn’t have to be vetted,” Hall said. “And that’s all right because the outcome could be horrific. You could have Americans killed.” [Continue reading…]

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