After finding a large amount of American cash during a raid on a Taliban outpost, U.S. intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan told their superiors as early as January that they suspected Russia was paying bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops, officials briefed on the matter told The New York Times.
The money got "everybody's attention," one official told the Times, and was a key piece of evidence in uncovering the Russian plot. After interrogating captured militants and criminals, the U.S. intelligence community became confident that Russia offered and paid bounties in 2019, the Times reports. Top U.S. intelligence officials in Afghanistan knew about the information, which was included in reports, and the assessment went up the chain of command until it arrived at the White House, officials said.
The Times first reported about the plot on Friday, saying the Trump administration has been discussing it since at least March, when the assessment was included in the President's Daily Brief. In response, Trump was presented with several options, including issuing a complaint to Moscow or imposing sanctions, but the White House has yet to authorize anything, the Times says.
Military and intelligence officials are reviewing casualties to see if any U.S. or coalition troops killed in combat were victims of the plot. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning that "nobody briefed me or told me ... about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes."