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17 Aug, 2020 21:06

US intelligence agencies have another bounty case in Afghanistan, alleging Iran paid the Taliban to attack American forces

US intelligence agencies have another bounty case in Afghanistan, alleging Iran paid the Taliban to attack American forces

It turns out Russia isn't the only country that US intelligence agencies are anonymously accusing of paying bounties to Taliban fighters to attack US troops in Afghanistan. Another bogeyman, Iran, is allegedly to blame this time.

A foreign government paid bounties to the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network for an attack last December on the Bagram Air Base that killed two civilians and injured more than 70 other people, including four US troops, CNN reported Monday, citing a Pentagon briefing document. The media outlet said “two sources familiar with the intelligence” identified Iran as the country behind the bounties.

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CNN gave no indication of the evidence on which US intelligence officials based their findings. Explicit evidence still hasn't been provided for anonymous allegations that Russia had paid the Taliban to kill US soldiers, which the New York Times reported in June. President Donald Trump has called the accusations against Russia unverified and said they were never deemed solid enough to brief him on the matter.

While Trump hasn't punished Russia for the unverified allegations – much to the chagrin of CNN and other mainstream media outlets – the Iran case has apparently had consequences. Iran's ties to the Taliban were used as part of the justification for the US drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January, CNN said, citing an anonymous administration official.

But the US avoided publicly condemning Iran for the Bagram attack and didn't pursue a direct military or diplomatic response because such actions could undermine peace talks with the Taliban and make it tougher for Trump to fulfill his campaign promise of ending the war in Afghanistan, CNN said.

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The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Bagram attack, which involved two car bombs. Ten Taliban fighters engaged in a firefight with security forces and were killed in airstrikes. At the time, US military officials said there were no casualties among US and coalition forces, although the Georgian Ministry of Defense said five of its troops suffered minor injuries.

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