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Washington claims China offered bounties for US troops in Afghanistan

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien (Photo by AP)

The out-going administration of US President Donald Trump is reportedly trying to verify intelligence alleging that China has offered to pay militants in Afghanistan to kill American troops.

“Administration officials across multiple agencies are currently working to corroborate the initial intelligence reports,” which is in the process of being declassified, Stars and Stripes military news outlet reported Friday, quoting “anonymous high-level sources” cited by multiple news outlets that broke the story earlier, claiming that National security adviser Robert O’Brien briefed Trump on the reports last month.

However, the intelligence the administration claims to have was “thinner even than reports that Russia offered payments to the Taliban to target US and coalition troops, which were never corroborated,” the report added, citing an unnamed administration official.

The development came months after The New York Times alleged in June that a Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, including American and British troops.

Days after that report was released, however, Trump dismissed it as “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax” and said the information wasn't credible.

Moreover in July, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper told members of US Congress that Pentagon intelligence agencies had not corroborated the reports.

But now that China faces similar accusations as Russia did six months ago, the Trump administration is handling the allegations “very differently,” Politico news outlet stated last week on Washington’s latest anti-China allegations.

In addition to briefing the president on the matter, O’Brien convened a National Security Council Policy Coordination Committee to discuss it on December 22, Politico added, citing an unnamed administration official.

“The US ‘treats this intelligence with caution, but any intelligence or reports relating to the safety of US forces is something we take very seriously,’” the official underline as quoted in the report.

The allegations, which were made nearly three weeks before Trump leaves office, were out-of-character for China, which “has long played a quiet diplomatic role in Afghanistan,” Axios news website further reported on the matter.

“If this intelligence were to be confirmed, it would represent a dramatic strategic shift for China, and sharply escalate tensions between China and the US,” it added. “If the intelligence does not prove accurate, it raises questions about the motivations of the sources behind it as well as the decision to declassify it.”

Beijing made the alleged offer to pay bounties for attacks against American soldiers “sometime after late February when the US struck a  deal with the Taliban,” Axios further underlined, citing a senior US official, noting that there have been no US combat deaths in Afghanistan since the February 29 agreement was signed.

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