United States intelligence agents believe that Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. soldiers and other coalition troops during peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, The New York Times reports. The talks were part of an effort to wind down U.S. military presence in the Middle Eastern nation, but the covert effort by Russia appears aimed at undermining them. U.S. intelligence officers reportedly reached the startling conclusion months ago and have been debating a response since. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the matter, as has the White House National Security Council, but neither has made a direct response. Islamist militants and their associates killed 20 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2019, and intelligence officers believe that the insurgents did collect bounties from Russia, but it’s unclear how many of those deaths are considered paid for by Russia.
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