Friday, July 3, 2020

Russian To Judgment, Con't

If it's actually possible, somehow the Russia bounty scandal just keeps getting worse for the Trump regime as the NY Times is reporting that Afghan military contractors were the middlemen when it came to paying Taliban militia for Russian bounties on the heads of US troops.

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.

Again, this GRU operation was going for years and was part of a larger in-theater effort by Russia to undermine the US and coalition efforts in Afghanistan. Going from the dryly clinical and theoretical "well it's possible somebody may have paid bounties" to "Yes, we have a guy in custody who we know purchased the death of US troops by corrupting local militia with Russian cash" is a hell of a thing, and the Trump regime knows it.

They can't blame this on Obama or Biden. They can't pretend this is fake news, either. More details keep coming out, and it's absolutely devastating.

No, this won't lead to Trump resigning or a magical impeachment scenario, that's dangerous magical thinking for a despot who knows if he leaves office, he spends the rest of his life in prison. But it can lead to a Biden victory so overwhelming that Trump heads for the nearest flight out of town on January 19th.

Again, this one has legs, guys.

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