Is there any truth to the story that Russia solicited killing of U.S. troops by Taliban?
Andrew Korybko

Editor's note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The New York Times published a scandalous story over last weekend alleging Russia's military-intelligence agency GRU solicited the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Moscow denied the accusation and blamed it on elements within the U.S. intelligence apparatus, while Trump said that he was never briefed about it, unlike what the outlet alleged. The large amount of attention being given to the claim raises questions about whether there's any truth to it or not.

To put it simply, no, the entire story is fake news. The information was supposedly derived from the interrogation of some Taliban combatants, which, even if that part of it is true, doesn't make it credible. People are known to lie under duress and tell their interrogators whatever they want to hear in the hopes of improving their conditions under detainment. In addition, in the off chance that a prisoner really did believe what they might have reportedly said, it's not for certain whether they were really talking to a Russian.

That's because intelligence agencies sometimes impersonate both friends and rivals alike as part of their operations. This isn't a conspiracy, but the standard operating procedure for the industry. Since no evidence other than hearsay was presented to advance The New York Times' scandalous claim, it can't be taken at face value. This naturally leads one to wonder why it was even published in the first place. The answer can be speculated upon with reasonable confidence by considering the domestic and international contexts.

About the first-mentioned, it's since been proven during the debunked Russiagate conspiracy theory saga that elements of the U.S. permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies ("deep state") have been desperately trying to sabotage Trump's presidency through a slew of fake news allegations. This latest one might have been pushed in an attempt to drive a wedge between his base ahead of the upcoming elections, specifically veterans and those who take national security issues very seriously.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses his campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida, November 26, 2019. /VCG

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses his campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida, November 26, 2019. /VCG

It's intriguing to note that Reuters published a report last week prior to The New York Times' titled "Exclusive: Dozens of Republican former U.S. national security officials to back Biden". Viewed in hindsight, that piece attempted to precondition the public into once again questioning Trump's commitment to national security. Coincidentally or not, The New York Times then released their own report shortly after that which tacitly makes it seem like Trump treasonously refused to respond to Russia allegedly soliciting the Taliban to kill U.S. troops.

The second angle, the international one, adds more contexts to this fake news claim. Over the weekend, CNN reported that "Trump administration finalizing a plan to withdraw 4,000 troops from Afghanistan", which is in accordance with the deal that the U.S. struck with the Taliban in February. A lot of reports frenziedly circulated at the time that many members of the U.S. "deep state" were against this peacemaking move, which is now more politically difficult to pull off than ever following The New York Times' fake news story about Russia.

That story, it should be said, capitalizes on conforming to the target audience's media-manipulated confirmation biases against both Trump and Russia. The New York Times makes it seem like Russia is paying back the U.S. for what America did against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan several decades ago during the 1980s proxy war there. That false narrative might be alluring for uninformed individuals, but it's out of touch with reality since Russia's only contacts with the Taliban are diplomatic ones as part of the ongoing peace process.

All told, The New York Times once again discredited itself by publishing another fake news story about Russia. The previously prestigious outlet is rapidly losing its hard-earned reputation as a reliable purveyor of facts and has been steadily becoming an instrument of information warfare for shadowy "deep state" forces to use in their ongoing campaign to discredit Trump's presidency. This observation alone speaks to just how far the so-called "fourth estate" has fallen over the past few years, and hints at how much further it'll fall in the future.

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