Taliban fighters in Laghman, Afghanistan, March 13, 2020 (NYT)
KABUL: The Taliban on Saturday rejected a newspaper report claiming their fighters had received rewards from Moscow’s spies to kill US troops in Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported Friday that bounties offered a notorious arm of Russia’s military intelligence service gave incentives to Taliban fighters to target US forces, just as US President Donald Trump tries to withdraw troops and end America’s longest war.
“The nineteen-year jihad of the Islamic Emirate is not indebted to the beneficence of any intelligence organ or foreign country,” the Taliban said in a statement issued in Kabul.
The group also denied previous US accusations it was given arms Russia.
“The Islamic Emirate has made use of weapons, facilities and tools … that were already present in Afghanistan or are war spoils frequently seized from the opposition in battles.”
The Taliban said home-made explosives accounted for most of the casualties among US forces.
The group reiterated it was committed to an accord signed with Washington in February that paves the way for withdrawing all foreign forces from Afghanistan mid next year.
Earlier on Saturday Russia also denounced the New York Times report.
The “baseless and anonymous accusations,” published the newspaper, had “already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington DC and London,” the Russian Embassy in Washington wrote on Twitter.
“Stop producing #fakenews that provoke life threats, @nytimes,” it added in a later tweet.
Russia has a long history in Afghanistan, where the former Soviet Union in its final years was bogged down in a devastating fight against Islamist guerrillas, then backed Washington.
The New York Times said there were different theories on why Russia would support Taliban attacks, including a desire to keep the United States bogged down in war.
It said that the Russian unit may also be seeking revenge over the US killing of Russian mercenaries in Syria, where Moscow backs President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the newspaper, the Taliban operation was led a unit known as the G.R.U., which has been blamed in numerous international incidents including a 2018 chemical weapons attack in Britain that nearly killed Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal.