A Friday report from The New York Times claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has yet to respond to intelligence claiming that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing United States soldiers in Afghanistan.
According to the report, the bounties were offered by a Russian military intelligence unit, which was allegedly linked to covert military operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West. The report claims that Islamist militants — or “armed criminal elements” with close ties to them — collected some bounty money from the unit.
“Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion,” the report stated.
Conversely, Business Insider claimed the Defense Department reported that 17 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2019.
Although Trump’s administration is allegedly aware of the bounties, it has yet to take action. According to The New York Times, officials briefed on the matter claim that the White House was offered several possible responses to the intelligence.
“Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step,” the report read.
According to Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, the White House has not broached the accusations, which the Kremlin was reportedly unaware of.
In 2008, then-U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, claimed that Russia was aiding the Taliban in an effort to undermine the United States’ stabilization campaign.
“Clearly, they are acting to undermine our interests. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and [they] said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban.”
Business Insider noted the contrast between the Trump administration’s silence on the alleged Russian bounties and the president’s response to Iran, which was threatened with retaliation for a single American death.
The relationship between Putin and Trump has long been in the spotlight. During impeachment testimony, Russia expert Fiona Hill claimed that Trump became the target of Russian intelligence agencies when he was a businessman. According to Hill, Putin targeted the president while working as a mid-level KGB agent. In addition, former special counsel Robert Mueller examined possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. As reported by Reason, Mueller concluded there was no coordination between the two parties.