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Pentagon says STILL no proof for NYT’s ‘Russian bounties’ story as US envoy hails Moscow’s assist for Afghan peace talks

Pentagon says STILL no evidence for NYT’s ‘Russian bounties’ story as US envoy hails Moscow’s support for Afghan peace talks

The Pentagon has nonetheless seen no proof for studies that Russia paid the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan, a protection official mentioned, whereas a senior US diplomat famous Moscow has as an alternative supported the nation’s peace course of.

Whereas the navy is “all the time threats,” it has but to uncover proof for the “bounties” allegation reported by the New York Occasions in June, David Helvey, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific Safety Affairs, informed the Home Oversight Committee throughout a listening to on Tuesday.

“Since these studies have come out concerning Russian packages, we’ve been trying particularly to establish corroborating data. We’ve not but discovered it, however we proceed to search for that,” Helvey mentioned, answering a query from Rep. Harley Rouda (D-California) in regards to the Occasions story and “outdoors actors” working in Afghanistan.

Helvey’s remarks got here as the most recent refutation of the “bounties” declare, after CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie informed NBC earlier this month that it “simply has not been proved to a stage of certainty that satisfies me.” Whereas Protection Secretary Mark Esper additionally noticed in July that “quite a lot of intelligence entities” had been unable to corroborate the story, and a report within the Wall Road Journal suggests the Nationwide Safety Company “strongly dissented” to the allegation, the cost refuses to die. Company media shops from CNN to MSNBC, in addition to an assortment of blue examine Twitter pundits, proceed to push the story, regardless of repeated denials from the navy.

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The US particular envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad – who has helped to rearrange high-level negotiations between Washington and the Taliban – was additionally requested about Russia throughout Tuesday’s listening to, and whether or not Moscow had labored to “undermine [US] efforts” to finish the conflict in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad dismissed the allegation, noting as an alternative that, if something, Russia has helped to facilitate the deal.

“They’ve been largely supportive of our diplomacy, as indicated within the Safety Council, or within the discussions that they’ve had with the Taliban, encouraging them to conform to a ceasefire or discount of violence and negotiating with the federal government,” Khalilzad mentioned, including that Russia shares the US’ issues about Islamic State cells energetic in Afghanistan.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced assist for the Afghan peace course of, together with negotiations between the US and the Taliban, in addition to between the militant group and the Afghan authorities. Washington’s efforts to withdraw troops from the nation have additionally been welcomed by Russia, which has urged for an finish to preventing there “as quickly as attainable.”

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Washington reached a take care of the Taliban in February, agreeing to a phased troop drawdown in alternate for a halt on assaults on US forces, finally aiming for an entire withdrawal by Might 2021, which might lastly finish the US’ almost two-decade occupation. The Trump administration decreased the US presence to some 8,600 troopers over the summer season, with an additional drawdown set for the autumn that might put the troop stage between 4,000 and 5,000, the bottom it has been in over a decade. As troopers go away the nation, nonetheless, US advisors will stay on Afghan soil to coach native forces, and fight models may very well be redeployed within the case of renewed assaults on American troops.

The Taliban launched into peace talks with the Afghan authorities earlier this month in Doha, Qatar after weeks of difficult negotiations over prisoner swaps. Although the conferences are nonetheless of their early levels and have thus far seen little progress, the 2 sides are working to hammer out a complete ceasefire deal, a long-term political association, in addition to settlement over points akin to girls’s rights and the appliance of Islamic regulation.

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