The Trump administration has unconfirmed intelligence information that China offered a bounty to non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack U.S. soldiers, Axios reported on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
The White House is declassifying the information. According to two senior administration officials who spoke to Axios, President Trump received the information at a briefing on Dec. 17 and was verbally briefed on the matter by national security adviser Robert O’Brien, officials said.
Describing the obtained intelligence, one official told Axios, “Like all first reports, we react with caution to initial reports” but “any intel reports relating to the safety of our forces we take very seriously.”
Many agencies are working to corroborate the information and confirm its validity.
The source of the information is not known, nor the time frame it covered, but it has the capability to drastically alter the U.S.-China relationship if correct.
One official told Axios: “The U.S. has evidence that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] attempted to finance attacks on American servicemen by Afghan non-state actors by offering financial incentives or ‘bounties.'” Adding that the National Security Council “is coordinating a whole-of-government investigation.”
The president is at the end of his four-year term, and he is hoping to halve the number of troops in Afghanistan by the time he leaves office.
“We owe this moment to the many patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice and our comrades who carry forward their legacy,” acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller said at the Pentagon.
Miller said troop numbers in Afghanistan will be reduced from 5,000 to 2,500 by January 15.
A short border connects China and Afghanistan in its far western region of Xinjiang.
Beijing has looked closely at the connections between militant groups operating from Xinjiang, where mostly Uighur Muslims live.
This new intel on China paying for U.S. soldiers to be killed comes on the heels of a stunning assessment last year, that a Russian military unit had offered bounties to Taliban fighters for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan, including U.S. soldiers.
Twenty U.S. soldiers were killed in clashes in Afghanistan in 2019, but the ones suspected of being killed for money are not clear.