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19 Jul, 2020 16:54

‘Attempt to spoil a peace deal’: Taliban spokesman says ‘Russian bounties’ story is fake news

‘Attempt to spoil a peace deal’: Taliban spokesman says ‘Russian bounties’ story is fake news

A Taliban official has dismissed as fake and a byproduct of US political infighting the sensational New York Times report claiming Russia had paid it to kill US troops in Afghanistan, in a segment on RT’s show Going Underground.

The story – based on anonymous sources – was broken by the Times last month, and triggered a fresh wave of anti-Trump indignation in the media and on the left. President Donald Trump himself called the story a “phony hit job,” while his own Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff said they were unable to corroborate it.

“This Russian bounties, it is not true,” Taliban spokesperson and US-Taliban negotiator Suhail Shaheen told RT’s ‘Going Underground’ on Saturday. “We are not fighting for anyone for money.”

Shaheen did not deny attacking US soldiers, but said that his forces do so based on “ideology,” and for the cause of “establishing an Islamic government,” not for cash.

The story, he said, “has to do with internal politics” in Washington, and is aimed at spoiling a peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February. Talks are currently underway between the militants and the US-backed Afghan government to shape a post-US Afghanistan. 

Shaheen’s suspicion echoes that of some anti-war commenters in the US, who argued that the New York Times story was aimed at undermining the peace process, in a bid to keep the US engaged in its nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan.

When pressed on the source of his militia’s funding, Shaheen maintained that the bulk of the Taliban’s finances come from taxes levied on the populace in their territory. Commenters in the west, however, accuse the Taliban of profiting from opium production, despite their anti-drug stance.

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