US President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he had been told or briefed on reported Russian bounties placed on US troops in Afghanistan, and called on The New York Times to identify its source.
Trump called the story “fake news” and said neither Vice President Mike Pence nor his Chief of Staff Meadows had been told or briefed, either.
“Everybody is denying it and there have not been many attacks on us,” Trump said in a tweet.
“Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden and Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine – Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their source?’” he added.
On Saturday, The New York Times reported that United States intelligence had found that a Russian unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The report says that the alleged bounties gave incentives to the insurgents to target US forces. This comes amid efforts by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.
The Times, citing anonymous officials, said that Trump was briefed on the findings in March, but has not decided how to respond.
According to the report, militants were believed to have collected bounty money, but that it was unclear whether specific killings of US troops were under suspicion.
The report said that there were different theories on why Russia would support Taliban attacks, “including a desire to keep the United States bogged down in war.”
The Taliban operation was “led by a unit known as the GRU,” said the Times article, “which has been blamed in numerous international incidents including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that nearly killed Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal.”
The New York Times quoted a Kremlin spokesman saying that Russia was unaware of the accusations.
Russia has more recently been accused by the United States of quietly providing weapons to the Taliban.
According to the report, US intelligence concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election in a bid to assist Trump, including through manipulation of social media.