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Putin says American presence in Afghanistan is beneficial to Moscow’s interests, rubbishes claims of ‘Russian bounties to Taliban’

“I’ll say it once again: we have no need to fight the American presence [in Afghanistan],” Putin said in an interview aired on the Rossiya-1 TV channel.

The president was responding to a reporter’s question about assertions in US media, using anonymous sources, insisting Russia had paid bounties to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers. The interview was recorded for a show called ‘Moscow, Kremlin, Putin.’ 

The New York Times initially published the claim about the ‘rewards’ – only to eventually admit it has zero evidence to prove its accusations. The Pentagon has repeatedly said it has found no proof of such a practice, it had said it planned to “get to the bottom” of the ‘story.’

However, the lack of evidence did not stop some US politicians, including Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden, from reasserting the allegations. He revisited them during his latest – and final – debate with President Donald Trump on Thursday night.

It was “strange” to hear such assertions, Putin said, given that harming US troops in Afghanistan would, in the end, harm Russia’s own interests.

“The US presence in Afghanistan still contributes … to stability in that country,” the president said, adding that, in this sense, it does not run counter to Russia’s own priorities. On the contrary, the withdrawal of American personnel could lead to “many risks,” even if it created conditions for an intra-Afghan reconciliation, he opined.

An American pullout would also likely mean Russia would need to bear some additional expenses of its own to maintain stability in the region, the president said.

Putin also hailed ongoing Russian-US cooperation in the field of intelligence and security, which continues despite the crisis in political relations. Information provided by the Americans has repeatedly helped Russian security services to prevent terrorist attacks on home soil, Putin said.

Moscow has also been sharing counterterrorism intelligence that might be of interest to Washington, and has helped its endeavors in other ways. In one instance described by Putin, Russia helped the US retrieve an American citizen arrested in Syria on espionage charges. This person was transferred to Moscow and handed over to the US officials, the president said.

“This cooperation, which is mutually beneficial, could be even better, but we are still satisfied with it as it is,” Putin said, dismissing the accusations against Moscow as “absolutely baseless.”

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