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Trump, Russia dismiss Taliban bounties claims

By REN QI in Moscow | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-06-30 09:43

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference in Washington, US, June 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Donald Trump and Russia on Sunday dismissed media reports about the latter offering bounties to Talibanlinked militants for killing US troops.

The allegations, first reported in The New York Times, said US intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian operatives offered Taliban-linked militants money to target NATO troops in the country, including US and British forces.

It said the intelligence was shared with US President Donald Trump and that his National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March.

In a pair of early morning tweets, Trump angrily slammed the report by The New York Times as "probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax".

"Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes," he wrote.

"Everybody is denying it& there have not been many attacks on us..."

"Nobody's been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration," Trump tweeted.

"While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA director, the national security adviser, and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice-president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Although both the CIA and the Pentagon declined to comment, John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, was quoted by The New York Times on Sunday night as saying that "the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated".

The claimed intelligence assessments came amid Trump's push to withdraw the US from Afghanistan, and suggested that Russia was making overtures to militants as the US and the Taliban were holding talks to end the long-running war.

Intelligence assessments

The assessment was first reported by The New York Times and then confirmed to The Associated Press by US intelligence officials and two others with knowledge of the matter, according to a report by The Associated Press.

According to the newspaper, the Taliban operation was led by a unit known as the GRU, which has been blamed in numerous international incidents including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that nearly killed Russianborn double agent Sergei Skripal.

"This unsophisticated plant clearly illustrates the low intellectual abilities of the propagandists of American intelligence, who instead of inventing something more plausible have to make up this nonsense," the Russian Foreign Ministry said, dismissing the accusation on Sunday.

The ministry also pointed to US intelligence agencies' alleged involvement in Afghan drug trafficking, and suggested those illegal actions might lead to the reluctance of the US side from teaming up to facilitate the start of peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

The Russian embassy in Washington said the reports by the US media has already led to direct threats against the lives of Russian diplomats.

"Stop producing fake news that provoke life threats," the embassy said in a later tweet.

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