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American soldiers stand during a homecoming ceremony in Fort Knox in 2014 after a nine-month combat deployment in Afghanistan. Luke Sharrett/Getty Images.
American soldiers stand during a homecoming ceremony in Fort Knox in 2014 after a nine-month combat deployment in Afghanistan. Luke Sharrett/Getty Images.

Russia would have orchestrated a program to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan

A disturbing report in the Washington Post seems to indicate that the Moscow government was hiring Taliban bounty hunters to attack U.S. troops. Why is this…

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Understanding the geopolitics and interests that have undermined Afghanistan over the past decades is a complicated matter.

In September 2019 we tried to explain the origin of the conflict in the Arab country, taking into special consideration the decision of the American president Donald Trump to suspend the negotiations with the Taliban leaders in the region.

The administration argued its efforts by echoing its campaign promise to withdraw US troops from long-standing conflicts. However, as we saw from the consequences of the withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria, the Trump administration's decisions seemed to favor only one player: Russia.

After 18 years of bloody confrontations with Afghanistan, a nation led by the Taliban, Trump had intended to reach an agreement and withdraw from the territory, commemorating nearly two decades after the attack on the World Trade Center, but an attack in Kabul last September by Taliban guerrillas gave the president the argument to call off the meeting.

Now, new reports seem to indicate that this was another behind-the-scenes story.

Moscow returns to center stage

According to the Washington Post, Russia is believed to have offered rewards to soldiers linked to the Taliban to kill U.S. forces in Afghanistan, causing the death of several members of the U.S. services.

Citing intelligence obtained from U.S. military interrogations of captured military personnel in recent months, the Post reported that while it is not clear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted by the Russian program, about 30 U.S. military personnel have lost their lives in the last three years at the hands of Moscow-paid Taliban.

The Trump administration has been aware of this since late March, and several meetings and discussions between agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Council (NSC) have discussed possible responses without reaching a concrete agreement.

"The veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated," NSC spokesman John Ullyot told the newspaper, and the other agencies have refused to comment.

Another proof of collusion?

Another New York Times report published last Friday showed that spies and commandos warned Washington about the program even before the Coronavirus pandemic put a stop to many activities in the country, highlighting the "apparent failure" of the White House to authorize a response to Russia.

The president “needs to immediately expose and handle this, and stop Russia’s shadow war,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not been briefed on the intelligence assessment and had asked for an immediate report to Congress. She accused Mr. Trump of wanting “to ignore” any charges against Russia.

“Russia has never gotten over the humiliation they suffered in Afghanistan, and now they are taking it out on us, our troops,” she said of the Soviet Union’s bloody war there in the 1980s. “This is totally outrageous. You would think that the minute the president heard of it, he would want to know more instead of denying that he knew anything.”

Although the president has defended himself by arguing that he never obtained information about the reports, and while he has questioned their veracity, officials close to the issue told the Times that there was "broad agreement" among intelligence agencies in the country that the intelligence assessment was accurate.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a Twitter post on Sunday: “If reporting about Russian bounties on U.S. forces is true, the White House must explain: 1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB? 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?”

Multiple Republicans retweeted Ms. Cheney’s post. Representative Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas and a former member of the Navy SEALs, amplified her message, tweeting, “We need answers.”

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