Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.
Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by members of Afghan security forces, which are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.
The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said.
The extraordinary quarrel between President Trump and the nation’s military leadership intensified Thursday as the Pentagon’s top general publicly apologized for appearing alongside the president in a church photo opportunity minutes after federal authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area.
The rare admission of regret from Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, capped nearly two weeks of public discomfort with and outright condemnation of Trump’s leadership amid nationwide protests of racial injustice from some of the nation’s most revered military figures.
The perception that Pentagon leaders went along with Trump’s desire to use military force against domestic protesters has caused the biggest civil-military crisis in more than a decade. The disagreement continued this week when Trump tried to shut down a push by some military leaders to address the legacy of racism by removing the names of Confederate leaders from some bases.