Top Democrats pounced on President Trump Saturday after news broke Friday evening that Russian military intelligence agents secretly offered Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan bounties in exchange for killing NATO and American troops stationed there.
The bombshell New York Times report revealed President Trump and the National Security Council were informed of the covert operations in late March, as the country was sinking into the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration has spent months deliberating how best to respond, but has so far taken no action.
“President Trump was cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G7 all while his Administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said in a tweet.
Over on the house side, the Democratic controlled-House Committee on Foreign Affairs issued a statement to their own Twitter account as well, calling out Trump for various instances of past coziness with the country.
“Is there anything Trump won’t do for Putin,” they asked.
The Russian entity responsible for the bounties, known as Unit 29155, is an arm of the country’s military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., and has developed a notorious reputation for carrying out covert and extralegal actions on behalf of the state. The group was behind the hack of Democratic National Committee emails in the 2016 US presidential elections and the 2018 poisoning of ex-Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
Reps for the Taliban denied the charges, calling them “baseless.” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to respond.
It’s unclear why the G.R.U. was targeting US and coalition soldiers. Some intelligence officials have speculated the country could be trying to derail peace talks between the US and Afghanistan, while others believe the bounties might have been offered as revenge against a 2018 battle in Syria which killed hundreds of government-aligned forces and a number of Russian mercenaries.
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