A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan, including U.S. and British troops, the Washington Post is reporting, in a surprising increase in hostility toward the United States.
First reported by the New York Times, the Russian operation has caused discord within the Trump administration about how to respond to the information when Trump has frequently considered the nation a friend of his.
U.S. intelligence agencies learned about the bounties in recent months, prompting a large interagency meeting back in March. According to a source close to the situation, sending a diplomatic communication to convey disapproval and authorizing new sanctions were discussed at the meeting.
Earlier this year, the administration brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that included the full withdrawal of U.S. troops within 14 months. The deal was supposed to lead to talks between militant representatives and the Afghan government, but with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Afghanistan, talks have so far not materialized.
The U.S. has previously placed sanctions on Russia over a number of issues, including its invasion of Ukraine, cyberattacks, and interfering in elections.
The news comes as the Pentagon confirms that it has completed an initial withdrawal of 8,600 troops from Afghanistan, a step toward full withdrawal, with full withdrawal being conditional, with the possibility a sizable force will remain if the Taliban does not reach a deal with the Afghan government.