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Tipsheet

NYT Finds Themselves in a Blunder Over Their Botched Russia-Taliban Story

AP Photo/Jim MacMillan, File

Members of the American intelligence community have concluded that members of the Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants if they successfully killed members of the American military, the New York Times reported. The problem, however, is that almost everyone involved in this story says it isn't true. The White House, Russia and even the Taliban have said the Times' story is false. 

According to the anonymous source that spoke to the Times, the Russians intending "to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year." 

The source claimed that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were briefed on the situation and the National Security Council discussed it back in March. 

Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the country had no diplomatic complaints on record. 

“If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Peskov told the Times.

In the Times' piece, the Taliban's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the terrorist organization had no "such relations with any intelligence agency." He labeled the accusation as an attempt to "defame" the group. 

“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” Mujahid explained. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

The most telling part of the article included absolutely zero details:

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the delicate intelligence and internal deliberations. They said the intelligence had been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted.

The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals. The officials did not describe the mechanics of the Russian operation, such as how targets were picked or how money changed hands. It is also not clear whether Russian operatives had deployed inside Afghanistan or met with their Taliban counterparts elsewhere.

So this information is based on an anonymous source yet there are no details about how the operation took place, what American troops were targeted, how meetings were conducted or even how the Taliban received their so-called payments. Why are there no details?

According to the president, he, the vice president and the chief of staff were never briefed about this operation. Trump labeled the story as "fake news"

Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, said he confirmed that Trump and Pence weren't briefed on the allegations. 

Former Acting DNI Director Ric Grenell slammed the attempted spin.

The Russian Embassy in the United States also denied the story.

Earlier this year the United States and the Taliban were in peace talks. American troops were supposed to be scaled back in Afghanistan, if the Taliban committed to a long-term ceasefire if violence reduction requirements were met. Talks stalled because of the Taliban's multiple attacks on the American military.

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