Russian bounties to Taliban fighters believed to result in deaths of US troops, intelligence assessments show

A US military Chinook helicopter lands on a field outside the governor's palace in Maidan Shar, capital of Wardak province, Afghanistan on June 6, 2019.
A US military Chinook helicopter lands on a field outside the governor's palace in Maidan Shar, capital of Wardak province, Afghanistan on June 6, 2019. (THOMAS WATKINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian bounties offered to Taliban militants in Afghanistan to kill US or UK troops there are believed to have resulted in the deaths of multiple US troops, the Washington Post reported Sunday, citing US intelligence gathered from military interrogations.

Multiple people familiar with the matter told the Post it is not clear how many US troops may have been killed as a result of the bounties.

CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence agency GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to a European intelligence official. The official told CNN the incentives offered by the Russians had, in their assessment, led to Coalition casualties, which would be service members' deaths or injuries. The official did not specify as to the date of the casualties, their number or nationality, or whether these were fatalities or injuries.

There was discussion as far back as February and March in the US intelligence community and among the top military commanders about the Russian operation to assess the intelligence and what exactly was happening, a US official told CNN on Sunday. There were some efforts at protecting US forces because of the intelligence, the source also said.

The New York Times first reported on Friday that US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks. President Donald Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House's National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the New York Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.

Trump, however, has repeatedly denied receiving a briefing about intelligence that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill US troops.

"Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP," he claimed in a Sunday evening tweet.

But John L. Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told the Times on Sunday night, "The veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated."