• US intelligence officials assessed that Russia's military intelligence agency offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill NATO troops in Afghanistan — which include American forces, according to a New York Times report.
  • Interrogations of Afghan militants and criminals reportedly yielded the information indicating that Taliban-linked militants were offered bounties from Russian agents, specifically Unit 29155, a branch of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency.
  • One theory floated by some of the officials is that Moscow may have been retaliating after an embarrassing defeat during a battle in Syria in 2018.
  • President Donald Trump was briefed of the intelligence assessment, but the White House had yet to respond to it, The Times' sources said.
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US intelligence officials assessed that Russia's military intelligence agency paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill NATO troops in Afghanistan — which include American forces, according to a New York Times report on Friday.

US officials discovered information about the bounties earlier this year. Some of the bounty money was collected by either Islamist militants or those associated with them, The Times reported.

In 2019, 17 US troops were killed in combat in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Interrogations of Afghan militants and criminals yielded the information indicating that Taliban-linked militants were offered bounties from Russian forces, The Times reported. The intelligence officials believe the bounties involve Unit 29155, a branch of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency.

Unit 29155, which is believed to be made up of former Russian special-forces troops, has been blamed for a series of assassination attempts throughout Europe, including the poisoning of Russian defector Sergei Skripal in 2018.

One theory floated by some of the officials is that Moscow may have been retaliating after an embarrassing defeat during a battle in Syria in 2018. Between 200 and 300 mercenaries from a Russia-linked security firm were killed during a four-hour battle at a military base that housed US-led coalition forces.

It is unclear whether the Kremlin sanctioned the bounties. Russian officials said they were not aware of the allegations, according to The Times.

President Donald Trump was briefed of the intelligence assessment, but the White House has yet to respond to it, The Times' sources said. The National Security Council had developed plans to address the report as early as March — plans that included making diplomatic complaints or sanctions, according to The Times.

US forces have previously accused Russia of providing material aid to the Taliban and subverting the US's efforts to stabilize the region: "Clearly, they are acting to undermine our interests," then-US commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson said in 2018.

"We've had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and [they] said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban," he added.

The Trump administration, by comparison, has threatened Iran with massive retaliation for a single American's death and accused Iran of complicity in the deaths of 600 US troops in Iraq.