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Afghan contractor delivered Russian cash to the Taliban to target US soldiers: NYT

Afghan contractor Rahmatullah Azizi was named in a U.S. intelligence report as one of the key middlemen who delivered cash from Russia’s GRU to the Taliban to target American troops, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

American and Afghan officials reported that Azizi spent several years transferring money to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan. The Times reported the existence of the intelligence last week.

Azizi fled to Russia, but investigators found about half a million dollars in cash in his home in Kabul. The Times reported that up to $100,000 was offered for the killing of a U.S. or coalition soldier. 

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The exchanges were reportedly lucrative. According to the Times, one person interviewed by intelligence officials said Azizi went from “not even having a blanket” to having multiple houses and cars. 

American and Afghan officials have said for years that Russia was involved in secret operations to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and aiding the Taliban.

In 2019, they concluded the country was offering bounties, which the Times reported was included in the president’s daily briefing in February. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has denied that the president was briefed on the intelligence, saying that it was and is contested. National security adviser Robert O’Brien told Fox News that President TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE knew nothing about the reports because the briefer “decided not to” share unverified intelligence with him.

However, intelligence reports obtained by the Times and other outlets suggest U.S. intelligence officials were increasingly certain of Russia’s involvement. 

Trump, who has called reports on the intelligence a "hoax," has maintained communications with Russia despite reportedly being aware of the operation.