American officials have intercepted electronic data showing large transfers of money from a bank account controlled by Russian military intelligence to an account linked to the Taliban. This confirmed their conclusion that, according to three well-known officials, Russia was secretly offering bounties for the killing of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan with the intelligence.
Although the United States has previously accused Russia of broadly supporting the Taliban, analysts from other intelligence agencies concluded that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program that inmates described during the interrogations.
The interception supported the results of the interrogations and helped to alleviate previous disagreements between intelligence analysts and agencies about the reliability of the detainees. The disclosures undermined White House officials’ claim that the intelligence agency was too insecure to inform President Trump. In fact, the information was made available to him in his daily written letter in late February, two officials said.
Afghan officials this week described a sequence of events that coincided with the intelligence agency’s report. They said that several business people transferring money via the informal “hawala” system have been arrested in Afghanistan in the past six months and suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen operating between the Russian GRU and the Taliban -linked militants. The businessmen were arrested in raids in northern Afghanistan and Kabul, which the officials described as widespread raids.
Half a million dollars were confiscated from one of the men’s homes, a provincial official added. The New York Times had Previously, it was reported that recovering an unusually large amount of cash in a robbery was an early part of the puzzle the investigators had put together.
The three American officials, who had described and confirmed details on the basis of the intelligence assessment, spoke on condition of anonymity in the face of growing turmoil about the Trump administration’s failure to approve a response to Russia’s alleged proxy targeting of American troops, and that Playing down the problem afterwards came to light four days ago.
White House and National Security Council officials declined to comment, as did the office of the director of the National Intelligence Service, John Ratcliffe. They referred to Mr. Ratcliffe’s statements late Monday; National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien; and the top spokesman for the Pentagon, Jonathan Hoffman. Everyone said that the latest news about Afghanistan was unfounded.
White House spokesman Kayleigh McEnany abused the Times on Tuesday after the publication of this article, saying that reports based on “selective leakage” interfere with information gathering. She has not addressed or denied the facts about the intelligence agency’s assessment and has stated that she would not disclose classified information.
On Monday, the government invited several House Republicans to the White House to discuss intelligence. The briefing was primarily conducted by three Trump administration officials: Mr. Ratcliffe, Mr. O’Brien, and Mark Meadows, chief of staff of the White House. Until recently, both Mr. Meadows and Mr. Ratcliffe were Republican Congressmen who were known to be outspoken supporters of Mr. Trump.
The briefing focused on Intelligence information that supported the conclusion that Russia was undertaking a covert bounty operation and other information that did not support it, said two people familiar with the meeting. For example, the briefing partially focused on the accounts of the inmates interviewed and the disagreements among previous analysts.
Both people said the intention of the briefing seemed to be to indicate that the information about the alleged Russian bounty plan was ambiguous. For example, one respondent said that the White House also cited some interrogations by other prisoners of Afghan intelligence officials who downplayed their credibility by calling them low.
Administration officials said nothing about intercepted data tracking of financial transfers in the House Republican briefing, both of them trusted people said.
Senate Democrats and Republicans were taught separately at the White House on Tuesday morning. Democrats emerged saying that the problem clearly did not, as Mr. Trump suggested, a “hoax. “They asked to hear directly from intelligence officials, not from Mr. Trump’s political representatives, but admitted that they had not undertaken to provide such information.
Based on the information they saw, lawmakers said they were deeply concerned about Mr. Trump’s insistence that he knew nothing about the conspiracy and his subsequent veiling when it became public.
“I find it inexplicable in the face of these very public accusations that the President has not come to the country and has assured the American people that he will investigate whether Russia is imposing bounty on American troops and doing everything in its power to ensure that we protect American troops, ”said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
He added: “I don’t understand for a moment why the President is not saying this to the American people right now and is relying on ‘I don’t know’, ‘I didn’t hear’, ‘I wasn’t’ to leave informed. “It’s just not excusable.”
Mr. Ratcliffe should go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet privately with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, an official familiar with the planning said.
The times reported last week that intelligence officials believed that a G.R.U. had offered and paid bounties for the killing of American troops and other coalition forces, and the White House had not approved a response after the National Security Council convened an official meeting in late March on the problem.
Investigators are said to focus on at least two fatal attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan. One of them is an April 2019 bomb attack at Bagram Air Base that killed three Marines: Staff Sgt.Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Del .; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, from Locust Valley, NY; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, PA.
On Monday, Felicia Arculeo, the mother of Corporal Hendriks, told CNBC that she was upset to hear from news of suspicions that her son’s death was due to a Russian bounty operation. She said she wanted an investigation and added that “the responsible parties should be held accountable if at all possible.”
Officials did not say which other attack was under investigation.
Asserting that the information was not made available to him, Mr. Trump also rated the intelligence agency as “so-called“And claimed he was told it was”not trustworthy. The White House then made statements on behalf of several subordinates, denying that he had been taught.
Ms. McEnany repeated this allegation on Monday, saying that the information was not collected about Mr. Trump because of a dissenting opinion within the intelligence community.
However, she and other officials were disappointed when they urged them to say whether their rejection included the President’s daily written briefing, a compendium of key information and analysis that President Secret Services wrote for reading. It is known that Mr. Trump often neglects to read his written briefings.
Information about the suspected Russian conspiracy was included in the President’s Daily Letter By the end of February, according to two officials Mr. Trump’s claim on Sunday that he was never “informed or informed” about the matter.
The information was also considered solid enough to be distributed to the wider intelligence community in a May 4 article in C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, commonly called The Wire.
A Taliban spokesman has denied that they accepted bounty paid by Russia to launch attacks on Americans and other coalition soldiers, and said the group did not need such encouragement for its operations. However, an American official said the focus was on criminals who were closely linked to the Taliban.
A raid in the city of Kunduz in the north about six months ago, according to Safiullah Amiry, the deputy head of the provincial council, arrested 13 people in a joint operation by the American armed forces and the Afghan secret service, the National Security Directorate. Two of the main targets of the raid had already fled – one to Tajikistan and one to Russia, Amiry said – but the security forces found half a million dollars in Kabul’s house, one of them. He said Afghan intelligence told him the raids were related to the distribution of Russian money to militants.
Two former Afghan officials said Monday that members of local criminal networks have carried out attacks against the Taliban in the past – not because they shared the Taliban’s ideology or goals, but for money.
In Parwan province, where Bagram Air Base is located, the Taliban are known to have hired local criminals as freelancers, said General Zaman Mamozai, the province’s former police chief. He said the Taliban commanders are based in two provinces, Seyagird and Shinwari, and from there they coordinate a network that attacks criminals.
And Haseeba Efat, a former member of the Parwan Provincial Council, also said the Taliban hired freelancers in the Bagram district – in one case, one of his distant relatives.
“They agree with these criminals that they don’t have a monthly salary, but they get paid for their work when the Taliban needs them,” said Efat.
Twenty American soldiers were killed in combat operations in Afghanistan last year, most since 2014.
The reporting was contributed by Fahim Abed, Najim Rahim, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos.