Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #872 Interview with Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald about Zbigniew Brzezinski, Afghanistan’s Untold Story and the Ukraine Crisis

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Chechens in Ukraine (pho­to cred­it Reuters)

Intro­duc­tion: We begin by revis­it­ing our guests’ first book Invis­i­ble His­to­ry; Afghanistan’s Untold Sto­ry (See FTR #‘s 678, 680, 683, 685.) Zbig­niew Brzezinski–Jimmy Carter’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Adviser–concocted a scheme to draw the Sovi­et Union into a war in Afghanistan–the goal being to draw the USSR into their own “Afghanistan.” See­ing Afghanistan as a key to con­trol­ling the Earth Island or the World Island (see below), Brzezin­s­ki saw using Islamists as proxy war­riors to defeat the Sovi­ets.

Next, we exam­ine an arti­cle writ­ten by our guests. Dis­cussing Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski’s doc­trine of con­trol­ling Eura­sia by con­trol­ling the “piv­ot point” of Ukraine. Fun­da­men­tal to this analy­sis is the con­cept of the Earth Island or World Island as it is some­times known.

Stretch­ing from the Straits of Gibral­tar, all across Europe, most of the Mid­dle East, Eura­sia, Rus­sia, Chi­na and India, that stretch of land: com­pris­es most of the world’s land mass; con­tains most of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and most of the world’s nat­ur­al resources (includ­ing oil and nat­ur­al gas.) Geopoliti­cians have long seen con­trol­ling that land mass as the key to world dom­i­na­tion.  The pop­u­la­tion that occu­pies the mid­dle of that stretch of geog­ra­phy is large­ly Mus­lim.

Uti­liz­ing that Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion to con­trol the resources of the Earth Island is a strat­a­gem that has been in effect in the West for a cen­tu­ry.

Brzezin­s­ki uti­lized that gam­bit to lure the Sovi­et Union into Afghanistan and the pres­ence of Chechen fight­ers oper­at­ing under Pravy Sek­tor admin­is­tra­tive com­mand may very well derive from the same con­cept.

We note that Brzezin­s­ki has spawned like-mind­ed prog­e­ny: his daugh­ter Mika holds forth on MSNBC and Ian is advo­cat­ing for a change in the chain of com­mand which would per­mit the use of nuclear weapons much eas­i­er.

Salute by the leader of Svo­bo­da, one of the par­ties enjoy­ing pow­er in Ukraine

In addi­tion to the use of Islamists as proxy war­riors, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s cor­po­ratist eco­nom­ic phi­los­o­phy has endeared the Chechens, al-Qae­da et al to the transna­tion­al cor­po­rate elite and asso­ci­at­ed polit­i­cal and nation­al secu­ri­ty ele­ments.

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • Brzezin­ski’s involve­ment with the Rock­e­feller milieu, the Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion in par­tic­u­lar.
  • The effect of the Amer­i­can loss in Viet­nam on the for­ma­tion of Brzezin­ski’s Afghanistan gam­bit.
  • Review of both Brzezin­ski’s and Rock­e­feller pro­tege Hen­ry Kissinger’s his­tor­i­cal involve­ment with the Nazi intel­li­gence milieu import­ed into the U.S.
  • The sleep-walk­ing of the U.S. toward nuclear war.
  • Russ­ian mil­i­tary entry into Syr­ia, pos­si­bly to neu­tral­ize the Islamists now turn­ing up in Ukraine, the Cau­ca­sus and else­where.
  • Amer­i­ca’s vio­la­tion of a promise to Gor­bachev not to walk NATO up to the Russ­ian bor­der.
  • The inept, eco­nom­i­cal­ly bank­rupt nature of the U.S.-installed gov­ern­ment of Ukraine.
  • Review of Gra­ham Fuller’s role in pre­cip­i­tat­ing the first Afghan war.
  • Review of the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing, which appears to have been “blow­back” from an appar­ent covert oper­a­tion in the Cau­ca­sus.

1. We begin by revis­it­ing our guests’ first book Invis­i­ble His­to­ry; Afghanistan’s Untold Sto­ry (See FTR #‘s 678, 680, 683, 685.) Zbig­niew Brzezinski–Jimmy Carter’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Adviser–concocted a scheme to draw the Sovi­et Union into a war in Afghanistan–the goal being to draw the USSR into their own “Afghanistan.” See­ing Afghanistan as a key to con­trol­ling the Earth Island or the World Island (see below), Brzezin­s­ki saw using Islamists as proxy war­riors to defeat the Sovi­ets. (The gam­bit of using Mus­lim com­bat­ants as proxy war­riors is a long­stand­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty tac­tic, orig­i­nal­ly craft­ed by Impe­r­i­al Ger­many dur­ing World War I.)

2. Next, we exam­ine an arti­cle writ­ten by our guests. Dis­cussing Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski’s doc­trine of con­trol­ling Eura­sia by con­trol­ling the “piv­ot point” of Ukraine. Fun­da­men­tal to this analy­sis is the con­cept of the Earth Island or World Island as it is some­times known.

Stretch­ing from the Straits of Gibral­tar, all across Europe, most of the Mid­dle East, Eura­sia, Rus­sia, Chi­na and India, that stretch of land: com­pris­es most of the world’s land mass; con­tains most of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and most of the world’s nat­ur­al resources (includ­ing oil and nat­ur­al gas.) Geopoliti­cians have long seen con­trol­ling that land mass as the key to world dom­i­na­tion.  The pop­u­la­tion that occu­pies the mid­dle of that stretch of geog­ra­phy is large­ly Mus­lim.

Uti­liz­ing that Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion to con­trol the resources of the Earth Island is a strat­a­gem that has been in effect in the West for a cen­tu­ry.

Brzezin­s­ki uti­lized that gam­bit to lure the Sovi­et Union into Afghanistan and the pres­ence of Chechen fight­ers oper­at­ing under Pravy Sek­tor admin­is­tra­tive com­mand may very well derive from the same con­cept.

“Amer­i­ca Piv­ots to Brzezinski’s Delu­sion of Eurasian Con­quest” by Paul Fitzger­ald and Eliz­a­beth Gould; OpE­d­News; 6/4/2015.

Rus­sia his­to­ri­an Stephen Cohen points to the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive estab­lish­ment for Amer­i­ca’s lat­est out­break of what can only be referred to as late-stage impe­r­i­al demen­tia. Neo­cons Robert Kagan and wife Vic­to­ria Nuland have cer­tain­ly done the heavy lift­ing to make Ukraine the stag­ing ground for what appears to be a NATO blitzkrieg on Moscow. But what­ev­er the deter­mi­na­tion of the neo­con plot, they are only the bark­ing dogs of mas­ter impe­ri­al­ist Zbig­niew Brzezin­s­ki, whose grand design has been creep­ing over the globe since he stepped into the Oval office as Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor to Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter in 1977.

Brzezin­s­ki stands apart as the inspi­ra­tion for the Ukraine cri­sis. His 1997 book The Grand Chess­board: Amer­i­can Pri­ma­cy and its Geostrate­gic Imper­a­tives lays out the blue­print for how Amer­i­can pri­macists should feel towards draw­ing Ukraine away from Rus­sia because, “With­out Ukraine, Rus­sia ceas­es to be a Eurasian empire.”

Brzezin­ski’s obses­sion derives from British geo­g­ra­ph­er Sir Hal­ford Mackinder’s 1904 def­i­n­i­tion of the Cen­tral-East­ern nations of Europe as the “Piv­ot Area”, whose geo­graph­ic posi­tion made them “the vital spring­boards for the attain­ment of con­ti­nen­tal dom­i­na­tion.” Whether any­one real­izes it, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s cur­rent cam­paign against Rus­sia in Ukraine is of Mackinder’s design brought for­ward by Brzezin­s­ki.

To an expert like Stephen Cohen, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s indict­ment of Rus­sia over Ukraine “does­n’t cor­re­spond to the facts and above all it has no log­ic.” But a look back forty years reveals that a lot of Cold War think­ing was­n’t fact-based either and it may now be instruc­tive to look for answers to Wash­ing­ton’s cur­rent dose of illog­ic in the covert ori­gins of the U.S. sup­port­ed 1970s war for Afghanistan.

As the first Amer­i­cans to gain access to Kab­ul after the Sovi­et inva­sion for an Amer­i­can TV crew in 1981 we got a close-up look at the nar­ra­tive sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Carter’s “great­est threat to peace since the Sec­ond World War” and it did­n’t hold up. What had been pre­sent­ed as an open and shut case of Sovi­et expan­sion by Har­vard Pro­fes­sor Richard Pipes on the Mac­Neil-Lehrer News Hour could just as eas­i­ly have been defined as a defen­sive action with­in the Sovi­ets’ legit­i­mate sphere of influ­ence. Three years ear­li­er, Pipes’Team B Strate­gic Objec­tives Pan­el had been accused of sub­vert­ing the process of mak­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty esti­mates by invent­ing threats where they did­n’t exist and inten­tion­al­ly skew­ing its find­ings along ide­o­log­i­cal lines. Now that ide­ol­o­gy was being pre­sent­ed as fact by Amer­i­ca’s Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Sys­tem.

In 1983 we returned to Kab­ul with Har­vard Nego­ti­a­tion Project Direc­tor Roger Fish­er for ABC’s Night­line. Our aim was to estab­lish the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the Amer­i­can claims. We dis­cov­ered from high lev­el Sovi­et offi­cials that the Krem­lin want­ed des­per­ate­ly to aban­don the war but the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion was drag­ging its feet. From the moment they entered office, the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion demand­ed that the Sovi­ets with­draw their forces, while at the same time keep­ing them pinned down through covert action so they could­n’t leave. Though lack­ing in facts and drip­ping in right wing ide­ol­o­gy, this hyp­o­crit­i­cal cam­paign was embraced by the entire Amer­i­can polit­i­cal spec­trum and left will­ful­ly-unex­am­ined by Amer­i­ca’s main­stream media.

At a con­fer­ence con­duct­ed by the Nobel Insti­tute in 1995, a high lev­el group of for­mer US and Sovi­et offi­cials faced off over the ques­tion: Why did the Sovi­ets invade Afghanistan? For­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil staff mem­ber Dr. Gary Sick estab­lished that the U.S. had assigned Afghanistan to the Sovi­et sphere of influ­ence years before the inva­sion. So why did the US choose an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly biased posi­tion when there were any num­ber of ver­i­fi­able fact-based expla­na­tions for why the Sovi­ets had invad­ed?

To for­mer CIA Direc­tor Stans­field Turn­er, respon­si­bil­i­ty could only be locat­ed in the per­son­al­i­ty of one spe­cif­ic indi­vid­ual. “Brzezin­ski’s name comes up here every five min­utes; but nobody has as yet men­tioned that he is a Pole.” Turn­er said. “[T]he fact that Brzezin­s­ki is a Pole, it seems to me was ter­ri­bly impor­tant.”

What Stans­field Turn­er was say­ing in 1995 was that Brzezin­ski’s well-known hatred of Rus­sia led him to take advan­tage of the Sovi­et’s mis­cal­cu­la­tion. But it was­n’t until the 1998 Nou­v­el Obser­va­teur inter­view that Brzezin­s­ki boast­ed that he had pro­voked the inva­sion by get­ting Carter to autho­rize a Pres­i­den­tial find­ing to inten­tion­al­ly suck the Sovi­ets in six months before they even con­sid­ered invad­ing.

Yet, despite Brzezin­ski’s admis­sion, Wash­ing­ton’s entire polit­i­cal spec­trum con­tin­ued to embrace his orig­i­nal false nar­ra­tive that the Sovi­ets had embarked on a world con­quest.

For Brzezin­s­ki, get­ting the Sovi­ets to invade Afghanistan was an oppor­tu­ni­ty to shift Wash­ing­ton toward an unre­lent­ing hard line against the Sovi­et Union. By using covert action, he cre­at­ed the con­di­tions need­ed to pro­voke a Sovi­et defen­sive response which he’d then used as evi­dence of unre­lent­ing Sovi­et expan­sion. How­ev­er, once his exag­ger­a­tions and lies about Sovi­et inten­tions became accept­ed, they found a home in Amer­i­ca’s imag­i­na­tion and nev­er left.

The Brzezin­s­ki-draft­ed Carter Doc­trine put the U.S. into the Mid­dle East with the Rapid Deploy­ment Force, Chi­na became engaged as a US mil­i­tary ally and detente with the Sovi­et Union was dead. The Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion would soon advance on this agen­da with a mas­sive mil­i­tary buildup as well as expand­ed covert actions inside the Sovi­et Union by the Nation­al­i­ties Work­ing Group.

The Pol­ish born Brzezin­s­ki rep­re­sent­ed the ascen­den­cy of a rad­i­cal new breed of xeno­pho­bic East­ern and Cen­tral Euro­pean intel­lec­tu­al bent on hold­ing Soviet/American pol­i­cy hostage to their pre-World War II world view. His ear­ly sup­port for expand­ing NATO into East­ern Europe and Ukraine was opposed by 46 senior for­eign pol­i­cy advi­sors who referred to it in a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Clin­ton as “a pol­i­cy error of his­toric pro­por­tions.” Yet in 1999, the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, urged on by what Time Mag­a­zine described as “Eth­nic lob­by­ing groups such as the Pol­ish Amer­i­can Con­gress,” began imple­ment­ing the plan.

US pol­i­cy since that time has oper­at­ed in a delu­sion of tri­umphal­ism that both pro­vokes inter­na­tion­al inci­dents and then cap­i­tal­izes on the chaos. A desta­bi­liz­ing strat­e­gy of sanc­tions against Rus­sia, the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary’s train­ing of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard, US troops parad­ing armored vehi­cles with­in 300 yards of Rus­si­a’s bor­der and war­like state­ments by NATO lead­ers can only mean the US is com­mit­ted to Brzezin­ski’s strat­e­gy of seiz­ing the “Piv­ot Area” and hold­ing it.

Today it’s Brzezin­ski’s son Ian who finds Moscow at the root of Amer­i­ca’s prob­lems regard­less of the facts. He recent­ly rec­om­mend­ed to the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that the author­i­ty to make war on Rus­sia should be tak­en out of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s hands and giv­en to NATO’s top com­man­der, Gen­er­al Phillip Breedlove; a man accused by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment of exag­ger­at­ing the Russ­ian threat in east­ern Ukraine by spread­ing “dan­ger­ous pro­pa­gan­da”.

The time has come for the Amer­i­can pub­lic to be let in on what US for­eign pol­i­cy has become and to decide whether the Brzezin­s­ki fam­i­ly’s per­son­al obses­sion with ful­fill­ing Mackinder’s direc­tive for con­quer­ing the piv­ot of Eura­sia at any cost, should be Amer­i­ca’s goal as well.

3. We note that Brzezin­s­ki has spawned like-mind­ed prog­e­ny: his daugh­ter Mika holds forth on MSNBC and Ian is advo­cat­ing for a change in the chain of com­mand which would per­mit the use of nuclear weapons much eas­i­er.

4. In addi­tion to their util­i­ty as proxy war­riors in the World Island, our guests note that Islamists of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood also favor “cor­po­ratist’ eco­nom­ics. For con­ve­nience, we review infor­ma­tion about this dynam­ic from pre­vi­ous pro­grams:

High­light­ing the com­par­isons between the Brotherhood’s pro­gram and those of Mus­soli­ni and Hitler, we note:

Dol­lars for Ter­ror: The Unit­ed States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copy­right 2000 [SC]; Algo­ra Pub­lish­ing; ISBN 1–892941-06–6; p. 127.

. . . . Tak­ing Italy’s choic­es under Mus­soli­ni for inspi­ra­tion, the eco­nom­ic pro­gram set three pri­or­i­ties . . . The social pol­i­cy fore­saw a new law on labor, found­ed on cor­po­ra­tions. This eco­nom­ic pro­gram would more direct­ly reveal its rela­tion­ship to total­i­tar­i­an ide­olo­gies a few years lat­er, with the works of Mohamed Ghaz­a­li . . . . Mohamed Ghaz­a­li rec­om­mend­ed ‘an eco­nom­ic reg­i­men sim­i­lar to that which exist­ed in Nazi Ger­many and fas­cist Italy.’ . . . The moral code is also an impor­tant com­po­nent in this pro­gram, which is intend­ed to cre­ate the ‘new Mus­lim man.’ . . . The notion of the equal­i­ty of the sex­es is inher­ent­ly negat­ed by the con­cept of the suprema­cy of male social respon­si­bil­i­ties. . .the ‘nat­ur­al’ place of the woman is in the home. . . .

  5. About the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s eco­nom­ic doc­trine:

“Islam in Office” by Stephen Glain; Newsweek; 7/3–10/2006.

Judeo-Chris­t­ian scrip­ture offers lit­tle eco­nomic instruc­tion. The Book of Deuteron­omy, for exam­ple, is loaded with edicts on how the faith­ful should pray, eat, bequeath, keep the holy fes­ti­vals and treat slaves and spous­es, but it is silent on trade and com­merce. In Matthew, when Christ admon­ishes his fol­low­ers to ‘give to the emper­or the things that are the emperor’s,’ he is effec­tively con­ced­ing fis­cal and mon­e­tary author­ity to pagan Rome. Islam is dif­fer­ent. The prophet Muhammad—himself a trader—preached mer­chant hon­or, the only reg­u­la­tion that the bor­der­less Lev­an­tine mar­ket knew. . . .

. . . In Mus­lim litur­gy, the deals cut in the souk become a metaphor for the con­tract between God and the faith­ful. And the busi­ness mod­el Muham­mad pre­scribed, accord­ing to Mus­lim schol­ars and econ­o­mists, is very much in the lais­sez-faire tra­di­tion lat­er embraced by the West. Prices were to be set by God alone—anticipating by more than a mil­len­nium Adam Smith’s ref­er­ence to the ‘invis­i­ble hand’ of mar­ket-based pric­ing. Mer­chants were not to cut deals out­side the souk, an ear­ly attempt to thwart insid­er trad­ing. . . . In the days of the caliphate, Islam devel­oped the most sophis­ti­cated mon­e­tary sys­tem the world had yet known. Today, some econ­o­mists cite Islam­ic bank­ing as fur­ther evi­dence of an intrin­sic Islam­ic prag­ma­tism. Though still guid­ed by a Qur’anic ban on riba, or inter­est, Islam­ic bank­ing has adapt­ed to the needs of a boom­ing oil region for liq­uid­ity. In recent years, some 500 Islam­ic banks and invest­ment firms hold­ing $2 tril­lion in assets have emerged in the Gulf States, with more in Islam­ic com­mu­ni­ties of the West.

British Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer Gor­don Brown wants to make Lon­don a glob­al cen­ter for Islam­ic finance—and elic­its no howl of protest from fun­da­men­tal­ists. How Islamists might run a cen­tral bank is more prob­lem­atic: schol­ars say they would manip­u­late cur­rency reserves, not inter­est rates.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood hails 14th cen­tury philoso­pher Ibn Khal­dun as its eco­nomic guide. Antic­i­pat­ing sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics, Khal­dun argued that cut­ting tax­es rais­es pro­duc­tion and tax rev­enues, and that state con­trol should be lim­ited to pro­vid­ing water, fire and free graz­ing land, the util­i­ties of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khal­dun the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion. [Empha­sis added.] His found­ing influ­ence is a sign of mod­er­a­tion. If Islamists in pow­er ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over com­merce. . . .

6. In addi­tion to the appar­ent use of Mus­lim Brotherhood/Islamist ele­ments as proxy war­riors against Rus­sia and Chi­na, the Broth­er­hood’s cor­po­ratist eco­nom­ics are beloved to Gra­ham Fuller, as well as cor­po­rate ele­ments cham­pi­oned by Grover Norquist. Evi­dence sug­gests that the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing was blow­back from a covert oper­a­tion in the Cau­ca­sus, not unlike the 9/11 attacks. Fuller’s name crops up promi­nent­ly in the back­ground of the attacks.

“Chech­nyan Pow­er” by Mark Ames; nsfwcorp.com; 6/5/2013.

. . . Fuller comes from that fac­tion of CIA Cold War­riors who believed (and still appar­ently believe) that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam, even in its rad­i­cal jiha­di form, does not pose a threat to the West, for the sim­ple rea­son that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam is con­ser­v­a­tive, against social jus­tice, against social­ism and redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth, and in favor of hier­ar­chi­cal socio-eco­nom­ic struc­tures. Social­ism is the com­mon ene­my to both cap­i­tal­ist Amer­ica and to Wah­habi Islam, accord­ing to Fuller.

Accord­ing to jour­nal­ist Robert Drey­fuss’ book “Devil’s Game,” Fuller explained his attrac­tion to rad­i­cal Islam in neoliberal/libertarian terms:

“There is no main­stream Islam­ic organization...with rad­i­cal social views,” he wrote. “Clas­si­cal Islam­ic the­ory envis­ages the role of the state as lim­ited to facil­i­tat­ing the well-being of mar­kets and mer­chants rather than con­trol­ling them. Islamists have always pow­er­fully object­ed to social­ism and communism....Islam has nev­er had prob­lems with the idea that wealth is uneven­ly dis­trib­uted.” . . . .

7. Fuller has long been an advo­cate of a “turn to the Broth­er­hood.”

“In Search of Friends Among the Foes: U.S. Hopes to Work with Diverse Group” by John Mintz and Dou­glas Farah; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 9/11/2004; p. A01.

. . . Some fed­er­al agents wor­ry that the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood has dan­ger­ous links to ter­ror­ism. But some U.S. diplo­mats and intel­li­gence offi­cials believe its influ­ence offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty for polit­i­cal engage­ment that could help iso­late vio­lent jihadists. ‘It is the pre­em­i­nent move­ment in the Mus­lim world,’ said Gra­ham E. Fuller, a for­mer CIA offi­cial spe­cial­iz­ing in the Mid­dle East. ‘It’s some­thing we can work with.’ Demo­niz­ing the Broth­er­hood ‘would be fool­hardy in the extreme’ he warned.” . . .

8. More about the cor­po­ratist eco­nom­ic phi­los­o­phy of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood fol­lows. Note that Khairat el-Shater was alleged by Egypt­ian intel­li­gence to have been run­ning Mohamed Mor­si. (We cov­ered this in FTR #787.) In turn, he was report­ed to be serv­ing as a liai­son between Mor­si and Mohamed Zawahiri, the broth­er of Al-Qae­da leader Ayman Zawahiri. Shater was also net­worked with: Anne Pat­ter­son, U.S. ambas­sador to Egypt, GOP Sen­a­tor John McCain and GOP Sen­a­tor Lid­say Gra­ham. In turn, Shater was alleged to have trans­ferred $50 mil­lion from the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood to Al-Qae­da at the time that he was net­work­ing with the Amer­i­cans and Mor­si. Hey, what’s $50 mil­lion between friends?

“The GOP Broth­er­hood of Egypt” by Avi Ash­er-Schapiro; Salon.com; 1/25/2012.

While West­ern alarmists often depict Egypt’s Mus­lim Broth­er­hood as a shad­owy orga­ni­za­tion with ter­ror­ist ties, the Brotherhood’s ide­ol­o­gy actu­al­ly has more in com­mon with America’s Repub­li­can Par­ty than with al-Qai­da. Few Amer­i­cans know it but the Broth­er­hood is a free-mar­ket par­ty led by wealthy busi­ness­men whose eco­nom­ic agen­da embraces pri­va­ti­za­tion and for­eign invest­ment while spurn­ing labor unions and the redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth. Like the Repub­li­cans in the U.S., the finan­cial inter­ests of the party’s lead­er­ship of busi­ness­men and pro­fes­sion­als diverge sharply from those of its poor, social­ly con­ser­v­a­tive fol­low­ers.

The Broth­er­hood, which did not ini­tial­ly sup­port the rev­o­lu­tion that began a year ago, reaped its ben­e­fits, cap­tur­ing near­ly half the seats in the new par­lia­ment, which was seat­ed this week, and vault­ing its top lead­ers into posi­tions of pow­er.

Arguably the most pow­er­ful man in the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is Khairat Al-Shater, a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire tycoon whose finan­cial inter­ests extend into elec­tron­ics, man­u­fac­tur­ing and retail. A strong advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion, Al-Shater is one of a cadre of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood busi­ness­men who helped finance the Brotherhood’s Free­dom and Jus­tice Party’s impres­sive elec­toral vic­to­ry this win­ter and is now craft­ing the FJP’s eco­nom­ic agen­da.

At Al-Shater’s lux­u­ry fur­ni­ture out­let Istak­bal, a new couch costs about 6,000 Egypt­ian pounds, about $1,000 in U.S. cur­ren­cy. In a coun­try where 40 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion lives on less than $2 a day, Istakbal’s clien­tele is large­ly lim­it­ed to Egypt’s upper class­es.

Although the Broth­ers do draw sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from Egypt’s poor and work­ing class, “the Broth­er­hood is a firm­ly upper-mid­dle-class orga­ni­za­tion in its lead­er­ship,” says Sha­di Hamid, a lead­ing Mus­lim Broth­er­hood expert at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, these well-to-do Egyp­tians are eager to safe­guard their eco­nom­ic posi­tion in the post-Mubarak Egypt. Despite ris­ing eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty and pover­ty, the Broth­er­hood does not back rad­i­cal changes in Egypt’s econ­o­my.

The FJP’s eco­nom­ic plat­form is a tame doc­u­ment, rife with promis­es to root out cor­rup­tion and tweak Egypt’s tax and sub­si­dies sys­tems, with occa­sion­al allu­sions to an unspe­cif­ic com­mit­ment to “social jus­tice.” The plat­form prais­es the mech­a­nisms of the free mar­ket and promis­es that the par­ty will work for “bal­anced, sus­tain­able and com­pre­hen­sive eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment.” It is a pro­gram that any Euro­pean con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty could get behind. . . .

9. We also review the pres­ence of ISIS-linked Chechen fight­ers in Ukraine, serv­ing under Pravy Sek­tor admin­is­tra­tive com­mand, appar­ent­ly con­tin­u­ing what we have termed “The Earth Island Boo­gie”:

Two dif­fer­ent types of fas­cist cadres are oper­at­ing in tan­dem in Ukraine–in addi­tion to the OUN/B heirs such as the Pravy Sek­tor for­ma­tions, Chechen fight­ers (almost cer­tain­ly allied with some ele­ment of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood) are now fight­ing along­side them and under the Pravy Sek­tor admin­is­tra­tive com­mand.

The Chechen for­ma­tions are described as “broth­ers” of the Islam­ic State.

Again, the Boston Marathon bomb­ing appears to have been blow­back from a covert oper­a­tion back­ing jihadists in the Cau­ca­sus.

“Ukraine Merges Nazis and Islamists” by Robert Par­ry; Con­sor­tium News; 7/7/2015.

In a curi­ous­ly upbeat account, The New York Times reports that Islam­ic mil­i­tants have joined with Ukraine’s far-right and neo-Nazi bat­tal­ions to fight eth­nic Russ­ian rebels in east­ern Ukraine. It appears that no com­bi­na­tion of vio­lent extrem­ists is too wretched to cel­e­brate as long as they’re killing Russ-kies.

The arti­cle by Andrew E. Kramer reports that there are now three Islam­ic bat­tal­ions “deployed to the hottest zones,” such as around the port city of Mar­i­upol. One of the bat­tal­ions is head­ed by a for­mer Chechen war­lord who goes by the name “Mus­lim,” Kramer wrote, adding:

“The Chechen com­mands the Sheikh Mansur group, named for an 18th-cen­tu­ry Chechen resis­tance fig­ure. It is sub­or­di­nate to the nation­al­ist Right Sec­tor, a Ukrain­ian mili­tia. … Right Sec­tor … formed dur­ing last year’s street protests in Kiev from a half-dozen fringe Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups like White Ham­mer and the Tri­dent of Stepan Ban­dera.

“Anoth­er, the Azov group, is open­ly neo-Nazi, using the ‘Wolf’s Hook’ sym­bol asso­ci­at­ed with the [Nazi] SS. With­out address­ing the issue of the Nazi sym­bol, the Chechen said he got along well with the nation­al­ists because, like him, they loved their home­land and hat­ed the Rus­sians.”

As casu­al­ly as Kramer acknowl­edges the key front-line role of neo-Nazis and white suprema­cists fight­ing for the U.S.-backed Kiev regime, his arti­cle does mark an aber­ra­tion for the Times and the rest of the main­stream U.S. news media, which usu­al­ly dis­miss any men­tion of this Nazi taint as “Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.” . . .

. . . . Now, the Kiev regime has added to those “forces of civ­i­liza­tion” — resist­ing the Russ-kie bar­bar­ians — Islam­ic mil­i­tants with ties to ter­ror­ism. Last Sep­tem­ber, Marcin Mamon, a reporter for the Inter­cept, reached a van­guard group of these Islam­ic fight­ers in Ukraine through the help of his “con­tact in Turkey with the Islam­ic State [who] had told me his ‘broth­ers’ were in Ukraine, and I could trust them.”

The new Times arti­cle avoids delv­ing into the ter­ror­ist con­nec­tions of these Islamist fight­ers. . . .

Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #872 Interview with Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald about Zbigniew Brzezinski, Afghanistan’s Untold Story and the Ukraine Crisis”

  1. There’s a new #TrumpRus­sia scan­dal rum­bling through DC but unlike the #Rus­si­a­Gate of 2016 this scan­dal involves actu­al deaths of US troops so it’s poten­tial­ly a much big­ger scan­dal in the scheme of things: Rus­sia alleged­ly paid Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants (the Haqqani net­work) and crim­i­nals a boun­ty for dead US troops. That’s not the scan­dal for Trump. The scan­dal for Trump is that this intel­li­gence was appar­ent­ly pre­sent­ed to Trump and he did noth­ing about it.

    As we’ll see, there are real ques­tions about the nature of the intel­li­gence the scan­dal is based on, in part because it’s from inter­ro­ga­tions of cap­tured Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants. It sounds like the NSA is one of the agen­cies that was uncon­vinced about the verac­i­ty of the evi­dence, in part because it tends not to trust intel­li­gence obtained from inter­ro­ga­tions. That also implies the NSA could­n’t con­firm the alle­ga­tions from its own elec­tron­ic inter­cepts.

    It sounds like the US mil­i­tary’s sus­pi­cions about the alleged plot to pay boun­ties for US troops report­ed­ly arose in 2019 fol­low­ing a sui­cide car­bomb attack in April of 2019 that killed three US Marines as they were trav­el­ing back to Bagram Air­field in Afghanistan and infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed in raids and inter­ro­ga­tions. It’s unclear if the inter­ro­ga­tions were of Tal­iban mem­bers or crim­i­nal ele­ments but we’re told by Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the for­mer police chief of Par­wan Province, where Bagram Air­field is, that the Tal­iban there hire free­lancers from local crim­i­nal net­works, often blur­ring the lines of who car­ried out what attacks. We’re also told that Russ­ian oper­a­tives have become more aggres­sive in attempt to con­tract with the Tal­bian and the Haqqani net­work.

    So it sounds like this attack on the US marines may have been car­ried out by crim­i­nal net­works and/or the Haqqani net­work and inter­ro­ga­tions of those ele­ments led to claims if this Russian/Taliban plot. Based on the NSA’s appar­ent rejec­tion of this assess­ment, it would appear that the infor­ma­tion from the inter­ro­ga­tions played a sig­nif­i­cant role in these sus­pi­cions. We’re also told more sen­si­tive and unspec­i­fied intel­li­gence that came in over time con­tributed to this con­clu­sion but we don’t have more specifics than that. So we know almost noth­ing about the nature of the intel­li­gence oth­er than that it was based on inter­ro­ga­tions.

    But there are a cou­ple of details. For exam­ple, Russ­ian oper­a­tives are said to have met with Tal­iban lead­ers in Doha, Qatar and inside Afghanistan. We’re told it’s not known if the meet­ings were to dis­cuss boun­ties. Just that the meet­ings hap­pened. We’re also told that about $500,000 in cash that was dis­cov­ered in a Tal­iban out­post which solid­i­fied sus­pi­cions that boun­ties were being paid. So based on those two exam­ples it sounds like a game of ‘con­nect-the-dots’ was being played to paint a very abstract evi­den­tiary pic­ture of this plot and the evi­dence was ulti­mate­ly thin enough that the NSA nev­er signed on to the assess­ment.

    That said, it’s worth recall­ing the recent­ly revealed plot by Ethan Melz­er — the neo-Nazis Satan­ic mem­ber of the Order of the Nine Angles (ONA) — to coor­di­nate with an al Qae­da mem­ber to orches­trate an attack on his unit as was trav­el­ing in a con­voy some­where around Turkey. Might there an asso­ci­a­tion between the “Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants” alleged­ly involved with the Afghan plot to kill US troops and the al Qae­da ele­ments Melz­er was con­spir­ing with? Who knows, but it’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty worth keep­ing in mind.

    Also recall how Melz­er said in the encrypt­ed texts with his co-con­spir­a­tors that he was try­ing to spark a new con­flict in the Mid­dle East by arrang­ing for his con­voy to be attack. It’s the kind of plot that could be par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for Afghanistan giv­en the con­text of the Afghan war in 2019, with the US try­ing to nego­ti­ate with the Tal­iban the terms of the US’s with­draw­al from the near­ly 20-year old war. Note that those nego­ti­a­tions took place in Doha, so if Russ­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with the Tal­iban in Doha there’s a good chance in the was in the con­text of those talks.

    And that’s all part of what makes this alleged Russ­ian plot so mys­te­ri­ous: would a plot to pay the Tal­iban — or Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants and crim­i­nals — to kill US troops in the con­text of US talks with the Tal­iban to nego­ti­ate a US with­draw­al from the con­flict more like­ly be a plot to dri­ve the US out of Afghanistan faster or to sab­o­tage the talks and keep the US there longer? It’s a pret­ty impor­tant ques­tion to answer when it comes to estab­lish­ing a real­is­tic motive:

    The New York Times

    Trump Got Writ­ten Brief­ing in Feb­ru­ary on Pos­si­ble Russ­ian Boun­ties, Offi­cials Say
    The inves­ti­ga­tion into Russia’s sus­pect­ed oper­a­tion is said to focus in part on the killings of three Marines in a truck bomb­ing last year, offi­cials said.

    By Char­lie Sav­age, Eric Schmitt, Nicholas Fan­dos and Adam Gold­man
    Pub­lished June 29, 2020
    Updat­ed June 30, 2020, 12:15 a.m. ET

    Amer­i­can offi­cials pro­vid­ed a writ­ten brief­ing in late Feb­ru­ary to Pres­i­dent Trump lay­ing out their con­clu­sion that a Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit offered and paid boun­ties to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants to kill U.S. and coali­tion troops in Afghanistan, two offi­cials famil­iar with the mat­ter said.

    The inves­ti­ga­tion into the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian covert oper­a­tion to incen­tivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bomb­ing that killed three Marines as one such poten­tial attack, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple offi­cials famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    The new infor­ma­tion emerged as the White House tried on Mon­day to play down the intel­li­gence assess­ment that Rus­sia sought to encour­age and reward killings — includ­ing reit­er­at­ing a claim that Mr. Trump was nev­er briefed about the mat­ter and por­tray­ing the con­clu­sion as dis­put­ed and dubi­ous.

    But that stance clashed with the dis­clo­sure by two offi­cials that the intel­li­gence was includ­ed months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Dai­ly Brief doc­u­ment — a com­pi­la­tion of the government’s lat­est secrets and best insights about for­eign pol­i­cy and nation­al secu­ri­ty that is pre­pared for him to read. One of the offi­cials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late Feb­ru­ary; the oth­er cit­ed Feb. 27, specif­i­cal­ly.

    More­over, a descrip­tion of the intel­li­gence assess­ment that the Russ­ian unit had car­ried out the boun­ties plot was also seen as seri­ous and sol­id enough to dis­sem­i­nate more broad­ly across the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty in a May 4 arti­cle in the C.I.A.’s World Intel­li­gence Review, a clas­si­fied com­pendi­um com­mon­ly referred to as The Wire, two offi­cials said.

    A Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil spokesman declined to com­ment on any con­nec­tion between the Marines’ deaths and the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot. The White House press sec­re­tary, Kayleigh McE­nany, did not answer when pressed by reporters on Mon­day whether the intel­li­gence was includ­ed in the writ­ten President’s Dai­ly Brief, and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil spokesman point­ed to her com­ments when asked lat­er about the Feb­ru­ary writ­ten brief­ing.

    Late Mon­day, John Rat­cliffe, the recent­ly con­firmed direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, issued a state­ment warn­ing that leaks about the mat­ter were a crime.

    “We are still inves­ti­gat­ing the alleged intel­li­gence ref­er­enced in recent media report­ing, and we will brief the pres­i­dent and con­gres­sion­al lead­ers at the appro­pri­ate time,” he said. “This is the ana­lyt­ic process work­ing the way it should. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sures now jeop­ar­dize our abil­i­ty to ever find out the full sto­ry with respect to these alle­ga­tions.”

    The dis­clo­sures came amid a grow­ing furor in Wash­ing­ton over the rev­e­la­tions in recent days that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion had known for months about the intel­li­gence con­clu­sion but the White House had autho­rized no response to Rus­sia.

    Top Democ­rats in the House and Sen­ate demand­ed that all mem­bers of Con­gress be briefed, and the White House sum­moned a small group of House Repub­li­cans friend­ly to the pres­i­dent to begin explain­ing its posi­tion.

    The law­mak­ers emerged say­ing that they were told the admin­is­tra­tion was review­ing report­ing about the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot to assess its cred­i­bil­i­ty. They also said the under­ly­ing intel­li­gence was con­flict­ing, echo­ing com­ments from Ms. McE­nany that the infor­ma­tion in the assess­ment had not been “ver­i­fied” because, she said with­out detail, there were “dis­sent­ing opin­ions” among ana­lysts or agen­cies.

    “There was not a con­sen­sus among the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty,” Ms. McE­nany said. “And, in fact, there were dis­sent­ing opin­ions with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, and it would not be ele­vat­ed to the pres­i­dent until it was ver­i­fied.”

    Lat­er Mon­day, Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, echoed her insis­tence that the reports were unsub­stan­ti­at­ed.

    But in deny­ing that Mr. Trump was briefed, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have been coy about how it is defin­ing that con­cept and whether it includes both oral brief­in­gs and the President’s Dai­ly Brief. “He was not per­son­al­ly briefed on the mat­ter,” Ms. McE­nany told reporters when asked specif­i­cal­ly about the writ­ten brief­ing. “That is all I can share with you today.”

    Mr. Trump is said to often neglect read­ing that doc­u­ment, pre­fer­ring instead to receive an oral brief­ing sum­ma­riz­ing high­lights every few days. Even in those face-to-face meet­ings, he is par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to brief on nation­al secu­ri­ty mat­ters. He often relies instead on con­ser­v­a­tive media and friends for infor­ma­tion, cur­rent and for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cials have said.

    Amer­i­can intel­li­gence offi­cers and Spe­cial Oper­a­tions forces in Afghanistan began rais­ing alarms as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary, and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil con­vened an inter­a­gency meet­ing to dis­cuss the prob­lem and what to do about it in late March, The New York Times has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. But despite being pre­sent­ed with options, includ­ing a diplo­mat­ic protest and sanc­tions, the White House autho­rized no response.

    The administration’s expla­na­tions on Mon­day, in pub­lic and in pri­vate, appeared to be an attempt to pla­cate law­mak­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Mr. Trump’s fel­low Repub­li­cans, alarmed by news reports in recent days reveal­ing the exis­tence of the intel­li­gence assess­ment and Mr. Trump’s insis­tence he had not been warned of the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot.

    The assess­ments point­ing to a Russ­ian scheme to offer boun­ties to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants and crim­i­nals were based on infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed in raids and inter­ro­ga­tions on the ground in Afghanistan, where Amer­i­can mil­i­tary com­man­ders came to believe Rus­sia was behind the plot, as well as more sen­si­tive and unspec­i­fied intel­li­gence that came in over time, an Amer­i­can offi­cial said.

    Offi­cials said there was dis­agree­ment among intel­li­gence offi­cials about the strength of the evi­dence about the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot and the evi­dence link­ing the attack on the Marines to the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot, but they did not detail those dis­putes.

    Notably, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, which spe­cial­izes in hack­ing and elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance, has been more skep­ti­cal about inter­ro­ga­tions and oth­er human intel­li­gence, offi­cials said.

    Typ­i­cal­ly, the pres­i­dent is for­mal­ly briefed when the infor­ma­tion has been vet­ted and seen as suf­fi­cient­ly cred­i­ble and impor­tant by the intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als. Such infor­ma­tion would most like­ly be includ­ed in the President’s Dai­ly Brief.

    For­mer offi­cials said that in pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tions, accu­sa­tions of such pro­found impor­tance — even if the evi­dence was not ful­ly estab­lished — were con­veyed to the pres­i­dent. “We had two thresh­old ques­tions: ‘Does the pres­i­dent need to know this?’ and ‘Why does he need to know it now?’” said Robert Cardil­lo, a for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial who briefed Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma from 2010 to 2014.

    David Priess, a for­mer C.I.A. dai­ly intel­li­gence briefer and the author of “The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Sto­ry of Intel­li­gence Brief­in­gs to America’s Pres­i­dents,” said: “Many intel­li­gence judg­ments in his­to­ry have not had the con­sen­sus of every ana­lyst who worked on it. That’s the nature of intel­li­gence. It’s inher­ent­ly deal­ing with uncer­tain­ty.”

    Both Mr. Cardil­lo and Mr. Priess said pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents received assess­ments on issues of poten­tial­ly vital impor­tance even if they had dis­sents from some ana­lysts or agen­cies. The dis­sents, they said, were high­light­ed for the pres­i­dent to help them under­stand uncer­tain­ties and the ana­lyt­ic process.

    ...

    The White House began explain­ing its posi­tion direct­ly to law­mak­ers in a care­ful­ly con­trolled set­ting. Mark Mead­ows, the White House chief of staff; Mr. Rat­cliffe, the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence; and Mr. O’Brien briefed a hand­ful of invit­ed House Repub­li­cans. A group of House Democ­rats was sched­uled to go to the White House on Tues­day morn­ing to receive a sim­i­lar brief­ing.

    There was no indi­ca­tion after the ses­sion with Repub­li­cans whether they had been told that the infor­ma­tion was includ­ed in Mr. Trump’s writ­ten brief­ing four months ago. But after­ward, two of the Repub­li­cans — Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Mac Thorn­ber­ry of Texas — said that they “remain con­cerned about Russ­ian activ­i­ty in Afghanistan, includ­ing reports that they have tar­get­ed U.S. forces” and would need addi­tion­al brief­in­gs.

    “It has been clear for some time that Rus­sia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” they said in a joint state­ment. “We believe it is impor­tant to vig­or­ous­ly pur­sue any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to Rus­sia or any oth­er coun­try tar­get­ing our forces.”

    Oth­er Repub­li­cans who attend­ed the brief­ing were more san­guine. In an inter­view, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Chris Stew­art of Utah said he saw noth­ing unusu­al about the pur­port­ed deci­sion not to oral­ly inform Mr. Trump, par­tic­u­lar­ly when the sit­u­a­tion did not require the pres­i­dent to take imme­di­ate action.

    “It just didn’t reach the lev­el of cred­i­bil­i­ty to bring it to the president’s atten­tion,” he said, adding that mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence agen­cies should con­tin­ue to scru­ti­nize Russia’s activ­i­ties.

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press first report­ed that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty was exam­in­ing the deaths of the three Marine reservists: Staff Sgt. Christo­pher Slut­man, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hen­driks, 25, of Locust Val­ley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Ben­jamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.

    They were killed near Bagram Air Base when a vehi­cle laden with explo­sives hit their truck, wound­ing an Afghan con­trac­tor as well. The huge blast set fire to the truck, engulf­ing those inside in flames, while their fel­low Marines tried to extri­cate them, a defense offi­cial said. A brief fire­fight ensued.

    Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the for­mer police chief of Par­wan Province, where Bagram Air­field is, said that the Tal­iban there hire free­lancers from local crim­i­nal net­works, often blur­ring the lines of who car­ried out what attacks. He said the Taliban’s com­man­ders were only based in two dis­tricts of the province, Seya­gird and Shin­wari, and from there they coor­di­nate a more exten­sive net­work that large­ly com­mis­sions the ser­vices of crim­i­nals.

    The Tal­iban have denied involve­ment. And a spokesman for Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin of Rus­sia, Dmit­ry Peskov, told NBC News on Mon­day that reports of the Russ­ian scheme were incor­rect. He said that “none of the Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tives have ever raised this ques­tion” with their Russ­ian coun­ter­parts through gov­ern­ment or diplo­mat­ic chan­nels.

    The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoff­man, declined to com­ment on any con­nec­tion between the Marines’ deaths and the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot. He also declined to say whether or when Defense Sec­re­tary Mark T. Esper was briefed on the intel­li­gence assess­ment and whether the deaths of Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan result­ed from the Russ­ian boun­ties. But lat­er Mon­day, Mr. Hoff­man issued a state­ment say­ing that the Defense Depart­ment was mon­i­tor­ing intel­li­gence on the mat­ter and that it “has no cor­rob­o­rat­ing evi­dence to val­i­date the recent alle­ga­tions found in open-source reports.”

    Col. DeDe Halfhill, a spokes­woman for Gen. Mark A. Mil­ley, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also declined to com­ment on the same ques­tions.

    ————

    “Trump Got Writ­ten Brief­ing in Feb­ru­ary on Pos­si­ble Russ­ian Boun­ties, Offi­cials Say” by Char­lie Sav­age, Eric Schmitt, Nicholas Fan­dos and Adam Gold­man; The New York Times; 06/29/2020

    “The assess­ments point­ing to a Russ­ian scheme to offer boun­ties to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants and crim­i­nals were based on infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed in raids and inter­ro­ga­tions on the ground in Afghanistan, where Amer­i­can mil­i­tary com­man­ders came to believe Rus­sia was behind the plot, as well as more sen­si­tive and unspec­i­fied intel­li­gence that came in over time, an Amer­i­can offi­cial said.”

    Infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed in raids and inter­ro­ga­tions. So it’s more than just a sin­gle data point, but it has­n’t been com­pelling enough to avoid a dis­pute with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty over whether or not such a plot actu­al­ly exists. And while we aren’t told exact­ly what the dis­pute is over, it sounds like the NSA still has­n’t been con­vinced due in part to a wari­ness of inter­ro­ga­tion-based infor­ma­tion. And while we don’t know who exact­ly was cap­tured and inter­ro­gat­ed it sounds like it was crim­i­nal net­works. So this plot alle­ga­tion appears to be based on the claims of inter­ro­gat­ed crim­i­nal net­works. It’s not exact­ly rock sol­id evi­dence:

    ...
    Offi­cials said there was dis­agree­ment among intel­li­gence offi­cials about the strength of the evi­dence about the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot and the evi­dence link­ing the attack on the Marines to the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot, but they did not detail those dis­putes.

    Notably, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, which spe­cial­izes in hack­ing and elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance, has been more skep­ti­cal about inter­ro­ga­tions and oth­er human intel­li­gence, offi­cials said.

    ...

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press first report­ed that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty was exam­in­ing the deaths of the three Marine reservists: Staff Sgt. Christo­pher Slut­man, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hen­driks, 25, of Locust Val­ley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Ben­jamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.

    They were killed near Bagram Air Base when a vehi­cle laden with explo­sives hit their truck, wound­ing an Afghan con­trac­tor as well. The huge blast set fire to the truck, engulf­ing those inside in flames, while their fel­low Marines tried to extri­cate them, a defense offi­cial said. A brief fire­fight ensued.

    Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the for­mer police chief of Par­wan Province, where Bagram Air­field is, said that the Tal­iban there hire free­lancers from local crim­i­nal net­works, often blur­ring the lines of who car­ried out what attacks. He said the Taliban’s com­man­ders were only based in two dis­tricts of the province, Seya­gird and Shin­wari, and from there they coor­di­nate a more exten­sive net­work that large­ly com­mis­sions the ser­vices of crim­i­nals.
    ...

    And now here’s an AP piece that gives us a few more details on the nature of the evi­dence behind this plot. Specif­i­cal­ly, $500,000 in cash was found in a Tal­iban out­post and Rus­sia sent a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to meet the Tal­iban in Doha, although it isn’t known what they dis­cussed. It’s not exact­ly com­pelling evi­dence on its own so one would hope there’s quite a bit of addi­tion­al evi­dence that isn’t being report­ed. The report also men­tions that US offi­cials are claim­ing that Russ­ian oper­a­tives became more aggres­sive in their desire to con­tract with the Tal­iban and mem­bers of the Haqqani Net­work. So the Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants who car­ried out this plot are pre­sum­ably mem­bers of the Haqqani Net­work. So it sounds like crim­i­nal ele­ments and the Haqqani Net­work attacked US troops, got cap­tured in raids, and told the US the attacks were part of a Russian/Taliban plot:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Trump denies brief­ing on report­ed boun­ties against US troops

    By ZEKE MILLER, JAMES LAPORTA and DEB RIECHMANN
    June 28, 2020

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Sun­day denied that he was made aware of U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials’ con­clu­sions that Rus­sia secret­ly offered boun­ties to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants for killing Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion was set to brief select mem­bers of Con­gress on the mat­ter on Mon­day.

    The intel­li­gence assess­ments came amid Trump’s push to with­draw the U.S. from Afghanistan, and sug­gest­ed that Rus­sia was mak­ing over­tures to mil­i­tants as the U.S. and the Tal­iban were hold­ing talks to end the long-run­ning war. The assess­ment was first report­ed by The New York Times and then con­firmed to The Asso­ci­at­ed Press by Amer­i­can intel­li­gence offi­cials and two oth­ers with knowl­edge of the mat­ter.

    There were con­flict­ing reports about whether Trump was aware of Russia’s actions. The intel­li­gence offi­cials told the AP that the pres­i­dent was briefed on the mat­ter ear­li­er this year; Trump denied that, tweet­ing on Sun­day that nei­ther he nor Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence had been briefed. The pres­i­dent tweet­ed Sun­day night that he was just told that intel­li­gence offi­cials didn’t report the infor­ma­tion to him because they didn’t find it cred­i­ble.

    The intel­li­gence offi­cials and oth­ers with knowl­edge of the mat­ter who spoke to the AP insist­ed on anonymi­ty in order to dis­cuss the high­ly sen­si­tive mat­ter.

    Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R‑S.C., who golfed with Trump on Sun­day, tweet­ed a day ear­li­er that it is “Imper­a­tive Con­gress get to the bot­tom of recent media reports that Russ­ian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Tal­iban to kill Amer­i­can sol­diers with the goal of push­ing Amer­i­ca out of the region.”

    Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Repub­li­can in the House, called for the White House to share more infor­ma­tion with Con­gress, say­ing if true, law­mak­ers need to know “Who did know and when?” and, refer­ring to Russ­ian leader Vladimir Putin, “What has been done in response to pro­tect our forces & hold Putin account­able?”

    Demo­c­ra­t­ic pre­sump­tive pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Biden said reports that Trump was aware of the Russ­ian boun­ties would be a “tru­ly shock­ing rev­e­la­tion” about the com­man­der in chief and his fail­ure to pro­tect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and stand up to Rus­sia.

    Rus­sia called the report “non­sense.”

    “This unso­phis­ti­cat­ed plant clear­ly illus­trates the low intel­lec­tu­al abil­i­ties of the pro­pa­gan­dists of Amer­i­can intel­li­gence, who instead of invent­ing some­thing more plau­si­ble have to make up this non­sense,” the Russ­ian For­eign Min­istry said.

    A Tal­iban spokesman said the mil­i­tants “strong­ly reject this alle­ga­tion” and are not “indebt­ed to the benef­i­cence of any intel­li­gence organ or for­eign coun­try.”

    John Bolton, a for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er who was forced out by Trump last Sep­tem­ber and has now writ­ten a tell-all book about his time at the White House, said Sun­day that “it is pret­ty remark­able the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard any­thing about it. One asks, why would he do some­thing like that?”

    Bolton told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thinks the answer “may be pre­cise­ly because active Russ­ian aggres­sion like that against the Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers is a very, very seri­ous mat­ter and nothing’s been done about it, if it’s true, for these past four or five months, so it may look like he was neg­li­gent. But, of course, he can dis­own every­thing if nobody ever told him about it.”

    House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi, one of the few con­gres­sion­al lead­ers briefed on sen­si­tive intel­li­gence mat­ters, told ABC’s “This Week” that she had not been informed about the report­ed boun­ties and request­ed a report to Con­gress on the mat­ter.

    “This is as bad as it gets, and yet the pres­i­dent will not con­front the Rus­sians on this score, denies being briefed. Whether he is or not, his admin­is­tra­tion knows and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan had been briefed and accept this report,” she said.

    While Russ­ian med­dling in Afghanistan is not a new phe­nom­e­non for sea­soned U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials and mil­i­tary com­man­dos, offi­cials said Russ­ian oper­a­tives became more aggres­sive in their desire to con­tract with the Tal­iban and mem­bers of the Haqqani Net­work, a mil­i­tant group that is aligned with the Tal­iban in Afghanistan and that was des­ig­nat­ed as a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in 2012. Russ­ian oper­a­tives are said to have met with Tal­iban lead­ers in Doha, Qatar and inside Afghanistan; how­ev­er, it is not known if the meet­ings were to dis­cuss boun­ties.

    The offi­cials the AP spoke to said the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has been inves­ti­gat­ing an April 2019 attack on an Amer­i­can con­voy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explo­sives det­o­nat­ed near their armored vehi­cles as they were trav­el­ing back to Bagram Air­field, the largest U.S. mil­i­tary instal­la­tion in Afghanistan. Three oth­er U.S. ser­vice mem­bers were wound­ed in the attack, along with an Afghan con­trac­tor. The Tal­iban claimed respon­si­bil­i­ty for the attack on Twit­ter. The offi­cials the AP spoke to also said they were look­ing close­ly at insid­er attacks — some­times called “green-on-blue” inci­dents — from 2019 to deter­mine if they are also linked to Russ­ian boun­ties.

    In ear­ly 2020, mem­bers of the elite Naval Spe­cial War­fare Devel­op­ment Group, known to the pub­lic as SEAL Team Six, raid­ed a Tal­iban out­post and recov­ered rough­ly $500,000. The recov­ered funds fur­ther solid­i­fied the sus­pi­cions of the Amer­i­can intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that the Rus­sians had offered mon­ey to Tal­iban mil­i­tants and oth­er linked asso­ci­a­tions.

    One offi­cial said the admin­is­tra­tion dis­cussed sev­er­al poten­tial respons­es, but the White House has yet to autho­rize any step.

    Trump respond­ed to Biden on Twit­ter, say­ing “Rus­sia ate his and Obama’s lunch dur­ing their time in office”

    But it was the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, along with inter­na­tion­al allies, that sus­pend­ed Rus­sia from the Group of Eight after its uni­lat­er­al annex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine — a move that drew wide­spread con­dem­na­tion.

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump denies brief­ing on report­ed boun­ties against US troops” by ZEKE MILLER, JAMES LAPORTA and DEB RIECHMANN; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 06/28/2020

    “While Russ­ian med­dling in Afghanistan is not a new phe­nom­e­non for sea­soned U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials and mil­i­tary com­man­dos, offi­cials said Russ­ian oper­a­tives became more aggres­sive in their desire to con­tract with the Tal­iban and mem­bers of the Haqqani Net­work, a mil­i­tant group that is aligned with the Tal­iban in Afghanistan and that was des­ig­nat­ed as a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in 2012. Russ­ian oper­a­tives are said to have met with Tal­iban lead­ers in Doha, Qatar and inside Afghanistan; how­ev­er, it is not known if the meet­ings were to dis­cuss boun­ties.

    Are the Rus­sians con­tract­ing the Tal­iban and Haqqani Net­work to kill US troops? Well, if so, it’s unclear why since the Tal­iban and Haqqani Net­work were attack­ing US troops any­way. But we’re told that cash found at a Tal­iban out­post was seen as evi­dence that the plot is real:

    ...
    The offi­cials the AP spoke to said the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has been inves­ti­gat­ing an April 2019 attack on an Amer­i­can con­voy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explo­sives det­o­nat­ed near their armored vehi­cles as they were trav­el­ing back to Bagram Air­field, the largest U.S. mil­i­tary instal­la­tion in Afghanistan. Three oth­er U.S. ser­vice mem­bers were wound­ed in the attack, along with an Afghan con­trac­tor. The Tal­iban claimed respon­si­bil­i­ty for the attack on Twit­ter. The offi­cials the AP spoke to also said they were look­ing close­ly at insid­er attacks — some­times called “green-on-blue” inci­dents — from 2019 to deter­mine if they are also linked to Russ­ian boun­ties.

    In ear­ly 2020, mem­bers of the elite Naval Spe­cial War­fare Devel­op­ment Group, known to the pub­lic as SEAL Team Six, raid­ed a Tal­iban out­post and recov­ered rough­ly $500,000. The recov­ered funds fur­ther solid­i­fied the sus­pi­cions of the Amer­i­can intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that the Rus­sians had offered mon­ey to Tal­iban mil­i­tants and oth­er linked asso­ci­a­tions.

    One offi­cial said the admin­is­tra­tion dis­cussed sev­er­al poten­tial respons­es, but the White House has yet to autho­rize any step.
    ...

    Over­all, at this point the big ques­tion is whether or not the dri­ving force between this boun­ty plot alle­ga­tion was state­ments that came from crim­i­nals and Haqqani Net­work mem­bers cap­tured in raids. Is that the pri­ma­ry basis for these charges or is there some­thing more than just find­ing cash in an out­post? And it’s that extreme ambi­gu­i­ty over the qual­i­ty of this intel­li­gence that leaves it very up in the air as to whether or not we’re see­ing the first pub­lic details of a real Russ­ian plot to pay forces that were already killing US troops to kill more US troops or if we’re see­ing anoth­er exam­ple of why the NSA is sus­pi­cious of infor­ma­tion gath­ered from inter­ro­ga­tions. And that’s assum­ing it’s not a neo-Nazi Satan­ic jihadist plot to reignite the Afghan war.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 30, 2020, 2:36 pm
  2. There’s more report­ing on the nature of the alle­ga­tions about Rus­sia pay­ing the Tal­iban boun­ties to kill US troops in Afghanistan. We’re now learn­ing from the New York Times about the fig­ure seen as being at the cen­ter of the plot: Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi, a low-lev­el drug smug­gler who some­how end­ed up work­ing as a con­trac­tor build­ing roads in the North­ern Afghanistan province of Kun­duz. As we’ll see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, it was Ger­many’s coali­tion forces who hired him. It sounds like Azizi has become notice­ably much wealth­i­er in recent years and the source of that wealth remained a mys­tery, acquir­ing mul­ti­ple hous­es, fan­cy cars, and even a secu­ri­ty detail.

    Azizi is accused being one of the key mid­dle­men between the GRU and the Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants, trav­el­ing to Rus­sia to pick up GRU cash. Although it sounds like these “Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants” are more like crim­i­nals for hire who don’t actu­al­ly share the Tal­iban’s ide­ol­o­gy. So crim­i­nals for hire are the group seen as car­ry­ing out the actu­al attacks on US troops for a boun­ty.

    Around six months ago there were raids to arrest dozens of Aziz­i’s rel­a­tives and asso­ciates but Azizi had already fled and was believed to be in Rus­sia. Around half of mil­lion dol­lars in cash was found in one of his homes in Kab­ul. Accord­ing to his busi­ness asso­ciates Azizi then used a region­al net­work of Hawalah’s (infor­mal mon­ey-trans­fer net­works pop­u­lar in the Mid­dle East that are noto­ri­ous­ly great for mon­ey-laun­der­ing) to fun­nel the cash through region­al coun­tries before it would arrive in Afghanistan an be deliv­ered to the mil­i­tants. The details of how that mon­ey was actu­al­ly dis­persed to mil­i­tants remains unclear. But it sounds like much of these details impli­cat­ing Azizi in the scheme have come from either asso­ciates or Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

    We’re told that US intel­li­gence believes it’s the GRU Unit 29155 run­ning the oper­a­tion. So what is the evi­dence that Azizi was tak­ing cash from the GRU? That remains entire­ly unclear. And that gets us to the sec­ond set of evi­dence that the GRU was behind this plot: US intel­li­gence claims that it detect­ed large trans­fers from GRU bank accounts to Tal­iban-linked accounts. That’s what we’re told in a sep­a­rate New York Times report. We’re also told tha the dis­cov­ery of this direct bank trans­fer was used as evi­dence to help reduce the dis­agree­ment with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty over the verac­i­ty of these boun­ty plot.

    So the GRU appar­ent­ly had Azizi — a guy with not obvi­ous Tal­iban or jihadist ties but instead has been work­ing as a con­trac­tor for coali­tion forces — trav­el to Rus­sia to col­lect GRU cash that was then rout­ed around the world using the con­vo­lut­ed hawala sys­tem to pay the Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants and obscure the finan­cial flows, but there was also a large finan­cial trans­fer direct­ly from a GRU bank account to a Tal­iban-lnked account. It’s an odd jux­ta­po­si­tion of oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty but that’s what we’re being asked to accept as com­pelling evi­dence of this plot.

    Ok, first, here’s the New York Times piece describ­ing how Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi is seen as a key mid­dle-man between the GRU and these crim­i­nals for hire:

    The New York Times

    Afghan Con­trac­tor Hand­ed Out Russ­ian Cash to Kill Amer­i­cans, Offi­cials Say

    A small-time busi­ness­man became a key mid­dle­man for boun­ties on coali­tion troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intel­li­gence reports say. Friends saw him grow rich, but didn’t know how.

    By Mujib Mashal, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim and Ruk­mi­ni Cal­li­machi
    July 1, 2020

    KABUL, Afghanistan — He was a low­ly drug smug­gler, neigh­bors and rel­a­tives say, then ven­tured into con­tract­ing, seek­ing a slice of the bil­lions of dol­lars the U.S.-led coali­tion was fun­nel­ing into con­struc­tion projects in Afghanistan.

    But he real­ly began to show off his wealth in recent years, after estab­lish­ing a base in Rus­sia, though how he earned those rich­es remained mys­te­ri­ous. On his reg­u­lar trips home to north­ern Afghanistan, he drove the lat­est mod­el cars, pro­tect­ed by body­guards, and his house was recent­ly upgrad­ed to a four-sto­ry vil­la.

    Now Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi stands as a cen­tral piece of a puz­zle rock­ing Wash­ing­ton, named in Amer­i­can intel­li­gence reports and con­firmed by Afghan offi­cials as a key mid­dle­man who for years hand­ed out mon­ey from a Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit to reward Tal­iban-linked fight­ers for tar­get­ing Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan, accord­ing to Amer­i­can and Afghan offi­cials.

    As secu­ri­ty agen­cies con­nect­ed the dots of the boun­ty scheme and nar­rowed in on him, they car­ried out sweep­ing raids to arrest dozens of his rel­a­tives and asso­ciates about six months ago, but dis­cov­ered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was like­ly back in Rus­sia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kab­ul, was about half a mil­lion dol­lars in cash.

    Amer­i­can and Afghan offi­cials have main­tained for years that Rus­sia was run­ning clan­des­tine oper­a­tions to under­mine the U.S. mis­sion in Afghanistan and aid the Tal­iban.

    But U.S. offi­cials only recent­ly con­clud­ed that a Russ­ian spy agency was pay­ing boun­ties for killing coali­tion troops, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, which the Krem­lin and the Tal­iban have denied.

    Accord­ing to offi­cials briefed on the mat­ter, U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials believe the pro­gram is run by Unit 29155, an arm of the Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency known as the G.R.U. that has car­ried out assas­si­na­tions and oth­er oper­a­tions over­seas.

    That a con­duit for the pay­ments would be some­one like Mr. Azizi — tied to the Amer­i­can recon­struc­tion effort, enmeshed in the region­al nether­world, but not promi­nent enough to attract out­side atten­tion — speaks to the depth of Russia’s reach into the increas­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed Afghan bat­tle­field, exploit­ing a nexus of crime and ter­ror to strike blows with years of deni­a­bil­i­ty.

    The pub­lic rev­e­la­tion last week of that con­clu­sion has touched off a polit­i­cal firestorm in Wash­ing­ton. White House offi­cials said at first that Pres­i­dent Trump was nev­er briefed on the mat­ter, but it emerged that the intel­li­gence assess­ment was includ­ed in a writ­ten brief­ing to the pres­i­dent in late Feb­ru­ary, if not ear­li­er.

    As Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can offi­cials have expressed alarm at the news, and the administration’s lack of action in response, the White House has insist­ed that the infor­ma­tion was uncer­tain.

    Details of Mr. Azizi’s role in the boun­ty scheme were con­firmed through a dozen inter­views that includ­ed U.S. and Afghan offi­cials aware of the intel­li­gence and the raids that led to it; his neigh­bors and friends; and busi­ness asso­ciates of the mid­dle men arrest­ed on sus­pi­cion of involve­ment. All spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to avoid retal­i­a­tion.

    U.S. intel­li­gence reports named Mr. Azizi as a key mid­dle­man between the G.R.U. and mil­i­tants linked to the Tal­iban who car­ried out the attacks. He was among those who col­lect­ed the cash in Rus­sia, which intel­li­gence files described as mul­ti­ple pay­ments of “hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.” Those files were among the mate­ri­als pro­vid­ed to Con­gress this week.

    Through a lay­ered and com­plex Hawala sys­tem — an infor­mal way to trans­fer mon­ey — he deliv­ered it to Afghanistan for the mis­sions, the files say. The trans­fers were often sliced into small­er amounts that rout­ed through sev­er­al region­al coun­tries before arriv­ing in Afghanistan, asso­ciates of the arrest­ed busi­ness­men said.

    Afghan offi­cials said prizes of as much as $100,000 per killed sol­dier were offered for Amer­i­can and coali­tion tar­gets.

    Just how the mon­ey was dis­persed to mil­i­tants car­ry­ing out attacks for the Tal­iban, and at what lev­el the coor­di­na­tion occurred, remains unclear. But offi­cials say the net­work had grown increas­ing­ly ambi­tious and was in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with more senior lev­els in Tal­iban mil­i­tary ranks to dis­cuss poten­tial tar­gets.

    About six months ago, Afghanistan’s intel­li­gence agency, the Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty, raid­ed the offices of sev­er­al Hawala busi­ness­men both in Kab­ul, the cap­i­tal, and in Kun­duz, in the north, who were believed to be asso­ci­at­ed with the boun­ty scheme, mak­ing more than a dozen arrests.

    “The tar­get of the oper­a­tion was Rah­mat, who was going back and forth to Rus­sia for a long time and said he worked there but no one knew what he did,” said Safi­ul­lah Amiry, the deputy head of Kun­duz provin­cial coun­cil, refer­ring to Mr. Azizi. But by the time the raid took place, “Rah­mat had fled.”

    “From what I heard from secu­ri­ty offi­cials, the mon­ey had come from Rus­sia through Rah­mat,” he added.

    ...

    Rus­sia has walked a fine bal­ance in recent years, eager to bloody the Amer­i­can nose, but wary of Afghanistan col­laps­ing into a chaos that could spill over its bor­ders. Pub­licly, Rus­sia has admit­ted only to infor­ma­tion-shar­ing with the Tal­iban in fight­ing the Islam­ic State in Afghanistan, a com­mon foe.

    The U.S. con­clu­sion in 2019 that the Rus­sians were send­ing boun­ty mon­ey to the Tal­iban came at a del­i­cate time in the con­flict, just as the Unit­ed States was deep into nego­ti­a­tions with the insur­gents over a deal to with­draw the remain­ing Amer­i­can troops from the coun­try.

    Some of the attacks believed to be part of the boun­ty scheme were car­ried out around the time the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was active­ly reach­ing out to Rus­sia for coop­er­a­tion on those peace talks. Zal­may Khalilzad, the U.S. spe­cial envoy lead­ing the talks, repeat­ed­ly met with Russ­ian offi­cials to build con­sen­sus around the Amer­i­can endgame.

    The Afghan bat­tle­field is sat­u­rat­ed with small­er ter­ror­ist groups in addi­tion to the Tal­iban, who are still respon­si­ble for the major­i­ty of the vio­lence. Crim­i­nal net­works, prof­i­teers and ter­ror train­ing experts also free­lance their ser­vices — often to sev­er­al groups at the same time.

    Mr. Azizi, who neigh­bors and rel­a­tives said is in his 40s, thrived in that con­vo­lut­ed, murky envi­ron­ment.

    A friend who has known him since his ear­ly days in Kun­duz, as well as lat­er in Rus­sia, said he had start­ed off with smug­gling small ship­ments of drugs into Iran in his 20s, but that ven­ture was not very suc­cess­ful. He had returned to north­ern Afghanistan, and some­how won con­tracts from the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion forces to build stretch­es of a cou­ple roads in Kun­duz, before mak­ing his way to Rus­sia.

    None of those inter­viewed who know Mr. Azizi were sur­prised when his asso­ciates were raid­ed about six months ago and one of his broth­ers tak­en into cus­tody with the half a mil­lion dol­lars in cash. As one of his friends put it, he had gone from “not even hav­ing a blan­ket” to hav­ing mul­ti­ple hous­es, fan­cy cars, and secu­ri­ty escorts.

    ———–

    “Afghan Con­trac­tor Hand­ed Out Russ­ian Cash to Kill Amer­i­cans, Offi­cials Say” by Mujib Mashal, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim and Ruk­mi­ni Cal­li­machi; The New York Times; 07/01/2020

    “Now Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi stands as a cen­tral piece of a puz­zle rock­ing Wash­ing­ton, named in Amer­i­can intel­li­gence reports and con­firmed by Afghan offi­cials as a key mid­dle­man who for years hand­ed out mon­ey from a Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit to reward Tal­iban-linked fight­ers for tar­get­ing Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan, accord­ing to Amer­i­can and Afghan offi­cials.”

    A key mid­dle­man who for years was run­ning this cash-dis­burse­ment net­work. That’s how US and Afghan offi­cials describe Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi. The GRU’s Unit 29155 alleged­ly ran the oper­a­tion, where Azizi would col­lect cash in Rus­sia and then fun­nel it around the regions with hawalas. The details about how the cash was actu­al­ly dis­bursed is unclear:

    ...
    Accord­ing to offi­cials briefed on the mat­ter, U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials believe the pro­gram is run by Unit 29155, an arm of the Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency known as the G.R.U. that has car­ried out assas­si­na­tions and oth­er oper­a­tions over­seas.

    That a con­duit for the pay­ments would be some­one like Mr. Azizi — tied to the Amer­i­can recon­struc­tion effort, enmeshed in the region­al nether­world, but not promi­nent enough to attract out­side atten­tion — speaks to the depth of Russia’s reach into the increas­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed Afghan bat­tle­field, exploit­ing a nexus of crime and ter­ror to strike blows with years of deni­a­bil­i­ty.

    ...

    U.S. intel­li­gence reports named Mr. Azizi as a key mid­dle­man between the G.R.U. and mil­i­tants linked to the Tal­iban who car­ried out the attacks. He was among those who col­lect­ed the cash in Rus­sia, which intel­li­gence files described as mul­ti­ple pay­ments of “hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.” Those files were among the mate­ri­als pro­vid­ed to Con­gress this week.

    Through a lay­ered and com­plex Hawala sys­tem — an infor­mal way to trans­fer mon­ey — he deliv­ered it to Afghanistan for the mis­sions, the files say. The trans­fers were often sliced into small­er amounts that rout­ed through sev­er­al region­al coun­tries before arriv­ing in Afghanistan, asso­ciates of the arrest­ed busi­ness­men said.

    Afghan offi­cials said prizes of as much as $100,000 per killed sol­dier were offered for Amer­i­can and coali­tion tar­gets.

    Just how the mon­ey was dis­persed to mil­i­tants car­ry­ing out attacks for the Tal­iban, and at what lev­el the coor­di­na­tion occurred, remains unclear. But offi­cials say the net­work had grown increas­ing­ly ambi­tious and was in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with more senior lev­els in Tal­iban mil­i­tary ranks to dis­cuss poten­tial tar­gets.
    ...

    And note that the groups that were alleged­ly paid to car­ry out these attacks weren’t the Tal­iban. It was crim­i­nal net­works who often sell their ser­vices to sev­er­al groups at the same time:

    ...
    The Afghan bat­tle­field is sat­u­rat­ed with small­er ter­ror­ist groups in addi­tion to the Tal­iban, who are still respon­si­ble for the major­i­ty of the vio­lence. Crim­i­nal net­works, prof­i­teers and ter­ror train­ing experts also free­lance their ser­vices — often to sev­er­al groups at the same time.

    Mr. Azizi, who neigh­bors and rel­a­tives said is in his 40s, thrived in that con­vo­lut­ed, murky envi­ron­ment.

    A friend who has known him since his ear­ly days in Kun­duz, as well as lat­er in Rus­sia, said he had start­ed off with smug­gling small ship­ments of drugs into Iran in his 20s, but that ven­ture was not very suc­cess­ful. He had returned to north­ern Afghanistan, and some­how won con­tracts from the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion forces to build stretch­es of a cou­ple roads in Kun­duz, before mak­ing his way to Rus­sia.
    ...

    And that fact that the crim­i­nal net­works that appar­ent­ly car­ried out these attacks sell their ser­vices to dif­fer­ent groups at the same time rais­es an obvi­ous ques­tion: how do we know the Tal­iban was nec­es­sar­i­ly even involved in this scheme. We’re told that Azizi trav­eled to Rus­sia to col­lect cash (alleged­ly GRU cash) and then use hawalas to dis­trib­ute it to these crim­i­nal net­works that are often hired by the Tal­iban. So where exact­ly does the Tal­iban itself come into the actu­al oper­a­tion of this net­work? It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant ques­tion since these boun­ty-fueled attacks hap­pened when the US was deeply involved in nego­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion had been reach out to Rus­sia for coop­er­a­tion on the peace talks:

    ...
    Rus­sia has walked a fine bal­ance in recent years, eager to bloody the Amer­i­can nose, but wary of Afghanistan col­laps­ing into a chaos that could spill over its bor­ders. Pub­licly, Rus­sia has admit­ted only to infor­ma­tion-shar­ing with the Tal­iban in fight­ing the Islam­ic State in Afghanistan, a com­mon foe.

    The U.S. con­clu­sion in 2019 that the Rus­sians were send­ing boun­ty mon­ey to the Tal­iban came at a del­i­cate time in the con­flict, just as the Unit­ed States was deep into nego­ti­a­tions with the insur­gents over a deal to with­draw the remain­ing Amer­i­can troops from the coun­try.

    Some of the attacks believed to be part of the boun­ty scheme were car­ried out around the time the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was active­ly reach­ing out to Rus­sia for coop­er­a­tion on those peace talks. Zal­may Khalilzad, the U.S. spe­cial envoy lead­ing the talks, repeat­ed­ly met with Russ­ian offi­cials to build con­sen­sus around the Amer­i­can endgame.
    ...

    Final­ly, note that Azizi report­ed­ly did­n’t begin to show off his wealth until he estab­lished some sort of base in Rus­sia and it was was in recent years that began show­ing it off. It would be inter­est­ing to know the exact tim­ing of this wealth-flaunt­ing in rela­tion to this alleged boun­ty plot:

    ...
    But he real­ly began to show off his wealth in recent years, after estab­lish­ing a base in Rus­sia, though how he earned those rich­es remained mys­te­ri­ous. On his reg­u­lar trips home to north­ern Afghanistan, he drove the lat­est mod­el cars, pro­tect­ed by body­guards, and his house was recent­ly upgrad­ed to a four-sto­ry vil­la.
    ...

    .
    Ok, now here’s a quick excerpt from an TOLO News arti­cle (a local Afghanistan news out­let) that includes the addi­tion­al detail on how Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi first got into the con­tract­ing busi­ness with coali­tion forces: He was hired by Ger­man coali­tion forces to build roads in Kun­duz and formed a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny in 2008:

    TOLO News

    ‘Mon­ey Trans­ferred from Rus­sia to Mil­i­tant Accounts’: Source

    By Nabi­la Ashrafi

    07/02/2020 — 10:42 PM — Edit­ed: 07/02/2020 — 10:50 PM

    Accord­ing to the source, Rah­mat­ul­lah was not sta­ble eco­nom­i­cal­ly in the ini­tial days the US forces came to Afghanistan.

    Fol­low­ing reports in the New York Times that US intel­li­gence mon­i­tored elec­tron­ic data show­ing large finan­cial trans­fers from a bank account con­trolled by Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency to a Tal­iban-linked account, a source on Thurs­day con­firmed to TOLOnews that the man who con­trols the trans­ac­tion is named Rah­mat Sia and he is the own­er of a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny.

    Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi is his giv­en name, but he is known as Rah­mat Sia. He lives in Rus­sia.

    Accord­ing to the source, Rahmatullah’s broth­er, his dri­ver, his cousin and a Forex deal­er have been arrest­ed by the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces in PD4 of Kab­ul city.

    The New York Times arti­cle said: “Afghan offi­cials this week described a sequence of events that dove­tailed with the account of the intel­li­gence. They said that sev­er­al busi­ness­men who trans­fer mon­ey through the infor­mal “hawala” sys­tem were arrest­ed in Afghanistan over the past six months and were sus­pect­ed of being part of a ring of mid­dle­men who oper­at­ed between the Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency, known as the G.R.U., and Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants. The busi­ness­men were arrest­ed in what the offi­cials described as sweep­ing raids in the north of Afghanistan as well as in Kab­ul.”

    “The Tal­iban are get­ting help from across the bor­der and also from the region­al intel­li­gence,” said Rab­bani Rab­bani, a mem­ber of the provin­cial coun­cil in Kun­duz, a province in the north.

    Accord­ing to the New York Times, the secu­ri­ty forces seized $500,000 mil­lion dur­ing an oper­a­tion at the house of Rah­mat­ul­lah in Kun­duz province.

    The New York Times also said that Rah­mat­ul­lah changed from a small drug smug­gler to a con­trac­tor and busi­ness­man.

    “There has been a war in Afghanistan for years when the Rus­sians were rul­ing here, the Amer­i­cans were doing the same thing, now, also, we can’t reject that Rus­sia is doing the same thing against the Amer­i­cans,” said Shah Khan Sherzad, a law­mak­er from Kun­duz.

    Local res­i­dents in the area in Kun­duz have said that no one is liv­ing in the four-sto­ry build­ing that belongs to Rah­mat­ul­lah after the mil­i­tary oper­a­tion.

    Accord­ing to the source, Rah­mat­ul­lah was not sta­ble eco­nom­i­cal­ly in the ini­tial days the US forces came to Afghanistan, how­ev­er, lat­er on, he obtained sev­er­al con­tracts from the Ger­man forces in Kun­duz and received a lot of mon­ey and then estab­lished a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny in 2008.

    “I think it is not a new trend, it’s not a new thing, it’s a strate­gic war between the US and the for­mer Sovi­et Union that has been under­way for years,” said Aman­ul­lah Barakzai, the for­mer deputy head of the Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty (NDS).

    “In the past, the Amer­i­cans were giv­ing mon­ey to kill the Rus­sians in Afghanistan, now–based on the New York Times claim–the Rus­sians pro­vide mon­ey to kill the Amer­i­cans. In both cas­es, it is only Afghanistan which is the loca­tion of the killings,” said Ahmad Saee­di, a mil­i­tary expert in Kab­ul.

    ...

    ————

    “ ‘Mon­ey Trans­ferred from Rus­sia to Mil­i­tant Accounts’: Source ” By Nabi­la Ashrafi; TOLO News; 07/02/2020

    “Accord­ing to the source, Rah­mat­ul­lah was not sta­ble eco­nom­i­cal­ly in the ini­tial days the US forces came to Afghanistan, how­ev­er, lat­er on, he obtained sev­er­al con­tracts from the Ger­man forces in Kun­duz and received a lot of mon­ey and then estab­lished a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny in 2008.”

    So Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi has been build­ing up his con­tract­ing busi­ness for well over a decade now. It rais­es a ques­tion about the time­line here: since Azizi report­ed­ly got sus­pi­cious­ly wealthy in recent years and acquired mul­ti­ple hous­es and fan­cy cars, when exact­ly did that hap­pen? Was it just in the last year or two? Or before then? Because we’re being led to believe that Aziz­i’s sud­den wealth was a result of oper­at­ing has this GRU mid­dle­man so we would­n’t expect Azizi to sud­den­ly get very wealthy until after that arrange­ment was estab­lished withe GRU. Does the time­line reflect that? We’re told above he began show­ing off his wealth in “recent years”. So has the boun­ty plot been car­ried out for “recent years” too? It sounds like it start­ed last year.

    Ok, now here’s a New York Times that was pub­lished just before the above piece describ­ing the evi­dence that sug­gest­ed the GRU is the source of the cash Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi has been hand­ing out to these ‘Tal­iban-linked’ crim­i­nal net­works: an inter­cept­ed elec­tron­ic data show­ing large finan­cial trans­fers from a GRU-con­trolled bank account to a Tal­iban-linked account. We aren’t told who con­trols the Tal­iban-linked account so the extent of that link to the Tal­iban remains entire­ly unclear. Was it an account close­ly tied to the Tal­iban or was it an account con­trolled by one of these crim­i­nal net­works that some­times sell their ser­vices to the Tal­iban? We have no idea. But dis­cov­er­ing this finan­cial trans­fer appar­ent­ly helped reduce the dis­pute with­in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty over whether or not this plot was real:

    The New York Times

    Sus­pi­cions of Russ­ian Boun­ties Were Bol­stered by Data on Finan­cial Trans­fers

    Ana­lysts have used oth­er evi­dence to con­clude that the trans­fers were most like­ly part of an effort to offer pay­ments to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants to kill Amer­i­can and coali­tion troops in Afghanistan.

    By Char­lie Sav­age, Mujib Mashal, Ruk­mi­ni Cal­li­machi, Eric Schmitt and Adam Gold­man

    Pub­lished June 30, 2020
    Updat­ed July 1, 2020

    Amer­i­can offi­cials inter­cept­ed elec­tron­ic data show­ing large finan­cial trans­fers from a bank account con­trolled by Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency to a Tal­iban-linked account, evi­dence that sup­port­ed their con­clu­sion that Rus­sia covert­ly offered boun­ties for killing U.S. and coali­tion troops in Afghanistan, accord­ing to three offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence.

    Though the Unit­ed States has accused Rus­sia of pro­vid­ing gen­er­al sup­port to the Tal­iban before, ana­lysts con­clud­ed from oth­er intel­li­gence that the trans­fers were most like­ly part of a boun­ty pro­gram that detainees described dur­ing inter­ro­ga­tions.

    Inves­ti­ga­tors also iden­ti­fied by name numer­ous Afghans in a net­work linked to the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian oper­a­tion, the offi­cials said — includ­ing, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an inter­me­di­ary for dis­trib­ut­ing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Rus­sia.

    The inter­cepts bol­stered the find­ings gleaned from the inter­ro­ga­tions, help­ing reduce an ear­li­er dis­agree­ment among intel­li­gence ana­lysts and agen­cies over the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the detainees. The dis­clo­sures fur­ther under­cut White House offi­cials’ claim that the intel­li­gence was too uncer­tain to brief Pres­i­dent Trump. In fact, the infor­ma­tion was pro­vid­ed to him in his dai­ly writ­ten brief in late Feb­ru­ary, two offi­cials have said.

    Afghan offi­cials this week described a sequence of events that dove­tailed with the account of the intel­li­gence. They said that sev­er­al busi­ness­men who trans­fer mon­ey through the infor­mal “hawala” sys­tem were arrest­ed in Afghanistan over the past six months and were sus­pect­ed of being part of a ring of mid­dle­men who oper­at­ed between the Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency, known as the G.R.U., and Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants. The busi­ness­men were arrest­ed in what the offi­cials described as sweep­ing raids in the north of Afghanistan as well as in Kab­ul.

    A half-mil­lion dol­lars was seized from the home of one of the men, added a provin­cial offi­cial. The New York Times had pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that the recov­ery of an unusu­al­ly large amount of cash in a raid was an ear­ly piece in the puz­zle that inves­ti­ga­tors put togeth­er.

    The three Amer­i­can offi­cials who described and con­firmed details about the basis for the intel­li­gence assess­ment spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty amid swelling tur­moil over the Trump administration’s fail­ure to autho­rize any response to Russia’s sus­pect­ed proxy tar­get­ing of Amer­i­can troops and play­ing down of the issue after it came to light four days ago.

    White House and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil offi­cials declined to com­ment, as did the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, John Rat­cliffe. They point­ed to state­ments late Mon­day from Mr. Rat­cliffe; the nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Robert C. O’Brien; and the Pentagon’s top spokesman, Jonathan Hoff­man. All of them said that recent news reports about Afghanistan remained unsub­stan­ti­at­ed.

    The White House press sec­re­tary, Kayleigh McE­nany, berat­ed The Times on Tues­day after this arti­cle was pub­lished, say­ing that reports based on “selec­tive leak­ing” dis­rupt intel­li­gence gath­er­ing. She did not address or deny the facts about the intel­li­gence assess­ment, say­ing she would not dis­close clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion.

    On Mon­day, the admin­is­tra­tion invit­ed sev­er­al House Repub­li­cans to the White House to dis­cuss the intel­li­gence. The brief­ing was most­ly car­ried out by three Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials: Mr. Rat­cliffe, Mr. O’Brien and Mark Mead­ows, the White House chief of staff. Until recent­ly, both Mr. Mead­ows and Mr. Rat­cliffe were Repub­li­can con­gress­men known for being out­spo­ken sup­port­ers of Mr. Trump.

    That brief­ing focused on intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion that sup­port­ed the con­clu­sion that Rus­sia was run­ning a covert boun­ty oper­a­tion and oth­er infor­ma­tion that did not sup­port it, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing. For exam­ple, the brief­ing focused in part on the inter­ro­gat­ed detainees’ accounts and the ear­li­er ana­lysts’ dis­agree­ment over it.

    Both peo­ple said the intent of the brief­ing seemed to be to make the point that the intel­li­gence on the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian boun­ty plot was not clear cut. For exam­ple, one of the peo­ple said, the White House also cit­ed some inter­ro­ga­tions by Afghan intel­li­gence offi­cials of oth­er detainees, play­ing down their cred­i­bil­i­ty by describ­ing them as low-lev­el.

    The admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials did not men­tion any­thing in the House Repub­li­can brief­ing about inter­cept­ed data track­ing finan­cial trans­fers, both of the peo­ple famil­iar with it said.

    Democ­rats and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans were also sep­a­rate­ly briefed at the White House on Tues­day morn­ing. Democ­rats emerged say­ing that the issue was clear­ly not, as Mr. Trump has sug­gest­ed, a “hoax.” They demand­ed to hear direct­ly from intel­li­gence offi­cials, rather than from Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal appointees, but con­ced­ed they had not secured a com­mit­ment for such a brief­ing.

    Based on the intel­li­gence they saw, the law­mak­ers said they were deeply trou­bled by Mr. Trump’s insis­tence he did not know about the plot and his sub­se­quent obfus­ca­tion when it became pub­lic.

    “I find it inex­plic­a­ble in light of these very pub­lic alle­ga­tions that the pres­i­dent hasn’t come before the coun­try and assured the Amer­i­can peo­ple that he will get to the bot­tom of whether Rus­sia is putting boun­ties on Amer­i­can troops and that he will do every­thing in his pow­er to make sure that we pro­tect Amer­i­can troops,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam B. Schiff, Demo­c­rat of Cal­i­for­nia and the chair­man of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

    He added: “I do not under­stand for a moment why the pres­i­dent is not say­ing this to the Amer­i­can peo­ple right now and is rely­ing on ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I haven’t heard,’ ‘I haven’t been briefed.’ That is just not excus­able.”

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff, the chair­man of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, crit­i­cized the White House’s claim that Pres­i­dent Trump was nev­er briefed about pos­si­ble Russ­ian boun­ties to Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants to kill U.S. and coali­tion troops.

    Mr. Rat­cliffe was sched­uled to go to Capi­tol Hill on Wednes­day to meet pri­vate­ly with mem­bers of the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, an offi­cial famil­iar with the plan­ning said.

    The Times report­ed last week that intel­li­gence offi­cials believed that a unit of the G.R.U. had offered and paid boun­ties for killing Amer­i­can troops and oth­er coali­tion forces and that the White House had not autho­rized a response after the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil con­vened an inter­a­gency meet­ing about the prob­lem in late March.

    Inves­ti­ga­tors are said to be focused on at least two dead­ly attacks on Amer­i­can sol­diers in Afghanistan. One is an April 2019 bomb­ing out­side Bagram Air Base that killed three Marines: Staff Sgt. Christo­pher Slut­man, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hen­driks, 25, of Locust Val­ley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Ben­jamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.

    ...

    Offi­cials did not say which oth­er attack was under scruti­ny.

    In claim­ing that the infor­ma­tion was not pro­vid­ed to him, Mr. Trump has also dis­missed the intel­li­gence assess­ment as “so-called” and claimed he was told that it was “not cred­i­ble.” The White House sub­se­quent­ly issued state­ments in the names of sev­er­al sub­or­di­nates deny­ing that he had been briefed.

    Ms. McE­nany reit­er­at­ed that claim on Mon­day and said that the infor­ma­tion had not been ele­vat­ed to Mr. Trump because there was a dis­sent­ing view about it with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.

    But she and oth­er admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials demurred when pressed to say whether their denials encom­passed the president’s dai­ly writ­ten brief­ing, a com­pendi­um of the most sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence and analy­sis that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty writes for pres­i­dents to read. Mr. Trump is known to often neglect read­ing his writ­ten brief­in­gs.

    Intel­li­gence about the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian plot was includ­ed in the President’s Dai­ly Brief in late Feb­ru­ary, accord­ing to two offi­cials, con­trast­ing Mr. Trump’s claim on Sun­day that he was nev­er “briefed or told” about the mat­ter.

    The infor­ma­tion was also con­sid­ered sol­id enough to be dis­trib­uted to the broad­er intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty in a May 4 arti­cle in the C.I.A.’s World Intel­li­gence Review, com­mon­ly called The Wire, accord­ing to sev­er­al offi­cials.

    A spokesman for the Tal­iban has denied that they accept­ed Rus­sia-paid boun­ties to car­ry out attacks on Amer­i­cans and oth­er coali­tion sol­diers, say­ing that the group need­ed no such encour­age­ment for its oper­a­tions. But one Amer­i­can offi­cial said the focus had been on crim­i­nals close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Tal­iban.

    In a raid in Kun­duz City in the north about six months ago, 13 peo­ple were arrest­ed in a joint oper­a­tion by Amer­i­can forces and the Afghan intel­li­gence agency, the Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty, accord­ing to Safi­ul­lah Amiry, the deputy provin­cial coun­cil chief there. Two of the main tar­gets of the raid had already fled — one to Tajik­istan and one to Rus­sia, Mr. Amiry said — but it was in the Kab­ul home of one of them where secu­ri­ty forces found a half-mil­lion dol­lars. He said the Afghan intel­li­gence agency had told him the raids were relat­ed to Russ­ian mon­ey being dis­bursed to mil­i­tants.

    Two for­mer Afghan offi­cials said Mon­day that mem­bers of local crim­i­nal net­works had car­ried out attacks for the Tal­iban in the past — not because they shared the Taliban’s ide­ol­o­gy or goals, but in exchange for mon­ey.

    In Par­wan Province, where Bagram Air Base is, the Tal­iban are known to have hired local crim­i­nals as free­lancers, said Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the for­mer police chief of the province. He said the Taliban’s com­man­ders are based in two dis­tricts of the province, Seya­gird and Shin­wari, and that from there they coor­di­nate a net­work that com­mis­sions crim­i­nals to car­ry out attacks.

    ...

    ———–

    “Sus­pi­cions of Russ­ian Boun­ties Were Bol­stered by Data on Finan­cial Trans­fers” by Char­lie Sav­age, Mujib Mashal, Ruk­mi­ni Cal­li­machi, Eric Schmitt and Adam Gold­man; The New York Times; 06/30/2020

    The inter­cepts bol­stered the find­ings gleaned from the inter­ro­ga­tions, help­ing reduce an ear­li­er dis­agree­ment among intel­li­gence ana­lysts and agen­cies over the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the detainees. The dis­clo­sures fur­ther under­cut White House offi­cials’ claim that the intel­li­gence was too uncer­tain to brief Pres­i­dent Trump. In fact, the infor­ma­tion was pro­vid­ed to him in his dai­ly writ­ten brief in late Feb­ru­ary, two offi­cials have said.”

    It was an elec­tron­ic inter­cept reveal­ing this GRU trans­fer that helped resolve the dis­pute. Recall that it was the NSA that was report­ed­ly skep­ti­cal of the intel­li­gence that prompt­ed this entire plot from inter­ro­gat­ing detainees, so it would be inter­est­ing to know if if was the NSA that obtained that elec­tron­ic inter­cept. It would also be inter­est­ing to know if this new infor­ma­tion actu­al­ly per­suad­ed the NSA that the plot was real or mere­ly helped to “reduce and ear­li­er dis­agree­ment among intel­li­gence ana­lysts and agen­cies over the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the detainees”, which is the kind of phras­ing that sug­gests a dis­agree­ment still exists.

    And note that it sounds like like some the funds Azizi — who isn’t named in the report but it’s clear­ly refer­ring to him — is sus­pect­ed of help­ing to dis­trib­ute were funds asso­ci­at­ed with these large trans­fers. It’s some­one con­fus­ing since we’re told that Azizi trav­eled to Rus­sia to col­lect cash and then dis­trib­ute it via hawalas. Was he obtain­ing that cash­ing by with­draw­ing it from a bank account in Rus­sia? Because that seems like an odd oper­a­tional deci­sion to trans­fer from a GRU account to some oth­er Tal­iban-linked account to get it to Azizi if he’s going to be dis­burs­ing cash any­way. Why not just give him the cash and avoid the finan­cial trail?

    ...
    Amer­i­can offi­cials inter­cept­ed elec­tron­ic data show­ing large finan­cial trans­fers from a bank account con­trolled by Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency to a Tal­iban-linked account, evi­dence that sup­port­ed their con­clu­sion that Rus­sia covert­ly offered boun­ties for killing U.S. and coali­tion troops in Afghanistan, accord­ing to three offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence.

    Though the Unit­ed States has accused Rus­sia of pro­vid­ing gen­er­al sup­port to the Tal­iban before, ana­lysts con­clud­ed from oth­er intel­li­gence that the trans­fers were most like­ly part of a boun­ty pro­gram that detainees described dur­ing inter­ro­ga­tions.

    Inves­ti­ga­tors also iden­ti­fied by name numer­ous Afghans in a net­work linked to the sus­pect­ed Russ­ian oper­a­tion, the offi­cials said — includ­ing, two of them added, a man believed to have served as an inter­me­di­ary for dis­trib­ut­ing some of the funds and who is now thought to be in Rus­sia.
    ...

    But that’s what we’re now told to believe: a GRU account trans­ferred mon­ey to a Tal­iban-linked account and Azizi was involved in dis­burs­ing those funds by trav­el­ing to Rus­sia to col­lect the cash and then dis­trib­uted it through hawalas.

    Final­ly, since we’re it behooves us to ask the ques­tion of who actu­al­ly ben­e­fit­ed from dis­rupt­ing the Trump peace talks with the Tal­iban, it’s worth recall­ing one major fac­tion that had a huge incen­tive to see those talks end­ed and would have been very well poised to cre­ate an arrange­ment with Azizi for pay­ing off crim­i­nal ele­ments to attack US troops: the Afghan gov­ern­ment which was left out the peace talks and fac­ing an exis­ten­tial threat with the pull-out of US troops. But there’s anoth­er set of groups that could be fac­ing a kind of exis­ten­tial threat from the peace deal. Ter­ror­ist groups like ISIS that the Tal­iban agreed to com­bat as part of the deal. So since crim­i­nal and ter­ror groups known to work for the Tal­iban are the key sus­pects in these boun­ty attacks, you have to won­der if those are the groups the Tal­iban agreed to com­bat when the US pulls out:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    ‘Thrown under the bus’: Some Afghans view U.S.-Taliban peace deal with mix of dis­be­lief and anger

    By Susan­nah George
    March 7, 2020 at 12:34 PM EST

    KABUL — As U.S. and Tal­iban nego­tia­tors cel­e­brat­ed the sign­ing of a peace deal in Doha, for many in Kab­ul, the agree­ment felt like a betray­al. After more than 18 years of a U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the doc­u­ment seek­ing to end it made no men­tion of any of the ideals once tout­ed by the con­flic­t’s sup­port­ers and archi­tects.

    The deal, signed Feb. 29 in Qatar’s cap­i­tal, also leaves the Afghan gov­ern­ment in a weak­ened posi­tion as it pre­pares for its own round of talks with the Tal­iban, accord­ing to the Afghan offi­cials and ana­lysts.

    The pro­vi­sions includ­ed a com­mit­ment to a con­tro­ver­sial pris­on­er swap that robs the gov­ern­ment of key lever­age before the talks, which had been sched­uled to begin by Tues­day. And a ref­er­ence to the Tal­iban as the “Islam­ic Emi­rate of Afghanistan” is seen as giv­ing the group greater legit­i­ma­cy, despite lan­guage that the Unit­ed States does not rec­og­nize any such polit­i­cal stand­ing.

    “We were thrown under the bus for a pho­to op and a hand­shake,” said a senior Afghan gov­ern­ment offi­cial.

    He com­plained that the deal did not extract enough con­ces­sions from the Tal­iban, and instead made con­tro­ver­sial pledges on behalf of the Afghan gov­ern­ment. The result, he said, is the Tal­iban will prob­a­bly enter talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment from a stronger nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion.

    Many Afghans who see them­selves most close­ly allied with Amer­i­can val­ues — and most depen­dent on U.S. sup­port — fear they have the most to lose from the peace deal. Sup­port­ers of women’s rights, civ­il soci­ety and some sec­tors of the country’s polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment described read­ing the deal with a mix of dis­be­lief and anger.

    “I want peace. All Afghans want peace. But I don’t think this deal will bring us peace,” the Afghan offi­cial said, describ­ing it as a step in the wrong direc­tion that will fur­ther desta­bi­lize the coun­try.

    His sen­ti­ment was echoed by two oth­er Afghan offi­cials. All spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they were not autho­rized to brief the media.

    Since deal, a spike in vio­lence

    Vio­lence across Afghanistan has risen since the deal was signed. On Fri­day, Kab­ul saw its dead­liest attack in months. Islam­ic State gun­men shoot­ing down on a reli­gious gath­er­ing from a near­by mul­ti­sto­ry build­ing killed at least 32 peo­ple and wound­ed 81. Some civil­ians at the site of the attack blamed the peace talks for the car­nage.

    “With the talks of peace recent­ly, there are some ele­ments ... who want to dis­rupt that process,” said Moham­mad Jawad, a pri­ma­ry school­teacher who lives near the site of the attack.

    The Tal­iban quick­ly issued a state­ment Fri­day say­ing it was not behind the shoot­ing.

    Under the peace deal, the Tal­iban made sev­er­al com­mit­ments to fight ter­ror­ist groups such as the Islam­ic State in exchange for the with­draw­al of U.S. troops in 14 months. But what the deal did not include were Tal­iban com­mit­ments con­cern­ing what a future Afghan gov­ern­ment would look like.

    Democ­ra­cy and women’s rights were the ideals described as cen­tral to the U.S. mis­sion in Afghanistan fol­low­ing the launch of the war after the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ists attacks. For years, the Tal­iban had giv­en haven to Osama bin Laden and oth­er top lead­ers of al-Qae­da.

    In his State of the Union address the fol­low­ing year, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush cit­ed advances in women’s rights.

    “The last time we met in this cham­ber, the moth­ers and daugh­ters of Afghanistan were cap­tives in their own homes, for­bid­den from work­ing or going to school. Today women are free,” he said in 2002.

    More than 18 years lat­er, Shogo­fa Dan­ish is one of many Afghan women who say they have seen the ben­e­fits of the free­doms brought with the U.S. inva­sion of Afghanistan. But the peace deal signed in Doha filled her with dread.

    “This is my dream job,” she said, speak­ing from the slick stu­dios of Tolo broad­cast­ing in Kab­ul, where she presents the news in Dari. “I don’t want to go back. I want this life.”

    Dan­ish said she fears that the deal signed by the Unit­ed States and the Tal­iban will bring the extrem­ists back to pow­er and allow them to cur­tail her free­dom.

    Even with­out the Tal­iban in a posi­tion of for­mal pow­er, Danish’s work is dan­ger­ous. Her employ­er has been attacked and repeat­ed­ly threat­ened by the mil­i­tants. A maze of blast walls and check­points sur­round the mod­ern office build­ings where she works.

    “I’m wor­ried, but I will not accept [return­ing to Tal­iban rule]. I will nev­er give up,” she said.

    ‘We spilled blood togeth­er’

    Fawzia Koofi’s adult life has strad­dled both Tal­iban rule and the Unit­ed States’ war in Afghanistan. The 45-year-old for­mer par­lia­men­tar­i­an and promi­nent women’s rights activist said she was sad­dened by the text of the peace deal, but not sur­prised.

    She has par­tic­i­pat­ed in sev­er­al rounds of infor­mal meet­ings with the Tal­iban and U.S. nego­tia­tors over the past few years, and said she has noticed a shift in U.S. pol­i­cy in Afghanistan: away from demo­c­ra­t­ic ideals to focus almost entire­ly on draw­ing down U.S. forces.

    “I was told that if every­thing else is going well in Afghanistan, we are not going to keep let­ting our sol­diers get killed for Afghan women,” she said, recount­ing a brief­ing she had with a senior U.S. offi­cial in the past year. She refused to name the offi­cial because of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the mat­ter.

    On the out­skirts of Kab­ul, at a mil­i­tary base shared by U.S. and Afghan spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, Lt. Gen. Moham­mad Farid Ahmadi’s office is dot­ted with plaques, coins and oth­er tokens from U.S. com­man­ders who have come and gone.

    Ahma­di, now the com­man­der of Afghanistan’s elite com­man­dos unit, has had his mil­i­tary career defined by the pres­ence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. As a young man, he served along­side U.S. Marines in Konar and Kan­da­har before being one of the first to join the elite com­man­dos unit when it was estab­lished in ear­ly 2007.

    He said that despite what the peace deal may say, he does not believe the Unit­ed States will com­plete­ly leave any­time soon.

    “I fought along­side the Amer­i­cans, and many Amer­i­can troops fell beside me. We spilled blood togeth­er. You can­not describe that high lev­el of trust,” he said.

    He can­not imag­ine U.S. forces would draw down to zero in the 14 months pre­scribed by the peace deal.

    “I trust they will with­draw in a more account­able and respon­si­ble way,” he said.

    Ahma­di said he is most con­cerned with the lack of a pro­vi­sion in the deal to leave behind a small U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism force in Afghanistan. He said Afghan troops are still depen­dent on close U.S. sup­port for coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions.

    “We will have some type of insur­gency or ter­ror­ism in this part of the world for­ev­er,” he said.

    “Leav­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism [forces in Afghanistan] helps us and it helps them,” he said, refer­ring to the Unit­ed States and oth­er NATO mem­bers. With­out assis­tance in that area, he said he fears much high­er lev­els of vio­lence.

    Like many of the oth­er Afghan offi­cials and civil­ians inter­viewed for this sto­ry, Ahma­di said a quick, com­plete Amer­i­can with­draw­al would be a move sim­i­lar to the Sovi­et with­draw­al in 1989, after which Afghanistan col­lapsed into years of bloody civ­il war.

    “I think that Amer­i­cans are wis­er than this and won’t make the same mis­take,” he said.

    ...

    —————

    “‘Thrown under the bus’: Some Afghans view U.S.-Taliban peace deal with mix of dis­be­lief and anger” by Susan­nah George; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/07/2020

    “The deal, signed Feb. 29 in Qatar’s cap­i­tal, also leaves the Afghan gov­ern­ment in a weak­ened posi­tion as it pre­pares for its own round of talks with the Tal­iban, accord­ing to the Afghan offi­cials and ana­lysts.”

    It’s not secret. The Afghan gov­ern­ment loathed these peace talks, and under­stand­ably so from their per­spec­tive because all indi­ca­tions are the coun­try is going to descend into a new round of con­flict once the coali­tion forces leave and if a his­to­ry is our guide that new round of con­flict is prob­a­bly going to be won by the Tal­iban:

    ...
    The pro­vi­sions includ­ed a com­mit­ment to a con­tro­ver­sial pris­on­er swap that robs the gov­ern­ment of key lever­age before the talks, which had been sched­uled to begin by Tues­day. And a ref­er­ence to the Tal­iban as the “Islam­ic Emi­rate of Afghanistan” is seen as giv­ing the group greater legit­i­ma­cy, despite lan­guage that the Unit­ed States does not rec­og­nize any such polit­i­cal stand­ing.

    “We were thrown under the bus for a pho­to op and a hand­shake,” said a senior Afghan gov­ern­ment offi­cial.

    He com­plained that the deal did not extract enough con­ces­sions from the Tal­iban, and instead made con­tro­ver­sial pledges on behalf of the Afghan gov­ern­ment. The result, he said, is the Tal­iban will prob­a­bly enter talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment from a stronger nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion.

    Many Afghans who see them­selves most close­ly allied with Amer­i­can val­ues — and most depen­dent on U.S. sup­port — fear they have the most to lose from the peace deal. Sup­port­ers of women’s rights, civ­il soci­ety and some sec­tors of the country’s polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment described read­ing the deal with a mix of dis­be­lief and anger.
    ...

    But there’s anoth­er set groups that may have opposed this peace deal too: ter­ror­ist groups like ISIS. And as we’ve seen above, it sounds like these ide­o­log­i­cal ter­ror groups, like non-ide­o­log­i­cal crim­i­nal net­works, are the kind of out­fits that will sell their ser­vices to mul­ti­ple par­ties in Afghanistan. So you have to won­der how much inter­est there was from the var­i­ous mer­ce­nary forces in Afghanistan in see­ing those peace talks stopped:

    ...
    Vio­lence across Afghanistan has risen since the deal was signed. On Fri­day, Kab­ul saw its dead­liest attack in months. Islam­ic State gun­men shoot­ing down on a reli­gious gath­er­ing from a near­by mul­ti­sto­ry build­ing killed at least 32 peo­ple and wound­ed 81. Some civil­ians at the site of the attack blamed the peace talks for the car­nage.

    “With the talks of peace recent­ly, there are some ele­ments ... who want to dis­rupt that process,” said Moham­mad Jawad, a pri­ma­ry school­teacher who lives near the site of the attack.

    The Tal­iban quick­ly issued a state­ment Fri­day say­ing it was not behind the shoot­ing.

    Under the peace deal, the Tal­iban made sev­er­al com­mit­ments to fight ter­ror­ist groups such as the Islam­ic State in exchange for the with­draw­al of U.S. troops in 14 months. But what the deal did not include were Tal­iban com­mit­ments con­cern­ing what a future Afghan gov­ern­ment would look like.
    ...

    How many dif­fer­ent groups inside or out­side Afghanistan would have had an inter­est in dis­rupt­ing those peace talks? It’s a major ques­tion that should be asked in the con­text of this inves­ti­ga­tion and it’s unclear why exact­ly Rus­sia would want to see those talks end­ed with attacks on US troops. But if some­one was indeed hir­ing these Tal­iban-linked mil­i­tants to car­ry out these attacks dur­ing the peace talks it sure seems like derail­ing the talks would have been a like­ly motive.

    So at this point what we know is that a fig­ure con­sid­ered cen­tral to this plot, Rah­mat­ul­lah Azizi, start­ed off as a drug smug­gler, then became a road build­ing con­trac­tor for coali­tion forces over a decade ago, but some­how became very wealthy in recent years, acquir­ing a num­ber of man­sions and cars and secu­ri­ty details. And it’s thought he trav­eled to Rus­sia to col­lect cash which gets dis­trib­uted via Hawalas to the actu­al paid fight­ers. Paid fight­ers that aren’t, them­selves, Tal­iban but instead mem­bers of the var­i­ous crim­i­nal ele­ments known to work with the Tal­iban but not exclu­sive­ly. The evi­dence for this plot was ini­tial­ly gath­ered from inter­ro­gat­ed detainees, lead­ing to dis­agree­ments in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty about the verac­i­ty of their claims. But then an elec­tron­ic inter­cept detect­ed a large finan­cial trans­fer from a GRU bank account to a Tal­iban-linked account and this was seen as reduc­ing that dis­agree­ment. All in all, it’s the kind of expla­na­tion sit­u­a­tion that rais­es a lot more ques­tions than answers. Ques­tions like why Rus­sia was appar­ent­ly try­ing to end the peace talks and ensure the US stays in Afghanistan for as long as pos­si­ble.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 2, 2020, 3:01 pm

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