Russia has been discovered to have offered Afghan militants large bounties in return for the killing of the US soldiers and its coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to the New York Times.
The discovery was made by US intelligence earlier this year, and was reportedly briefed to President Donald Trump and the National Security Council during a meeting in late March, the paper was told by anonymous officials with knowledge of the findings.
According to the intelligence findings, a branch of Russia’s military intelligence service – the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) – made the offer to the Taliban and other militants affiliated with the group to target NATO forces, which include US, British and Turkish forces.
US forces, along with the international coalition of countries which it led, invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government following the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre on 11 September that year.
Since then, the US-led coalition’s military forces have had a presence within Afghanistan in their continued fight against the Taliban, which has persisted till this day.
Over the past decade, the US has announced its decision to withdraw its military from the country, but has maintained a strong military presence despite that. In March this year, however, the US military finally began a major withdrawal process due to the peace talks and agreement between the US and the Taliban.
Since the discovery of the bounty, the US was reportedly coming up with ways in which it would counter the Russian efforts to harm its troops, including the imposition of more US sanctions on Russia and diplomatic condemnation. Until now, no such retaliation has been conducted.
Following the New York Times’ revelation, however, the White House and President Donald Trump have denied that the inter-agency intelligence meeting ever took place and have said that they were not briefed on the findings.
The discovery itself has not been denied by the US or the UK, though, despite Russia having denied that it conducted such an operation.
The revelations of Russia’s bounty on NATO forces, both of whom are rivals in many conflicts throughout the globe, also raises the issue of whether the same has been offered in other conflicts and countries.
Syria is one example of this, in which both the US and Russia have a military presence, with Moscow militarily backing the Syrian regime while US forces hold the oil fields in the east of the country.