President Donald Trump has refused to authorize any response after being briefed that Russia was offering bounties for the killing of U.S. troops, according to a bombshell new report in The New York Times.
"American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there," the newspaper reported, citing "officials briefed on the matter."
"The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year," The Times explained. "Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion."
Trump was offered options to respond, but has taken no action.
"The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House's National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. 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 officials said," the newspaper explained. "Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia's so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations."
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, said the United States had not raised the issue.
"If someone makes them, we'll respond," Peskov said of the accusation.
American troops were reportedly not the only ones to be targeted.
"The officials familiar with the intelligence did not explain the White House delay in deciding how to respond to the intelligence about Russia," the newspaper reported. "They said the intelligence has been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted."