01:47 GMT22 September 2020
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    Afghanistan has released the first 80 of its 400 remaining Taliban prisoners as part of a peace deal with the US, which is contingent on the US also withdrawing all its troops from the country. However, the US “deep state” may be trying to sabotage the deal, Mark Sleboda, a Moscow-based international relations and security analyst, told Sputnik.

    “We have to remember that the US-installed Afghan government never agreed to these withdrawal talks that the US had with the Taliban,” Sleboda told Political Misfits hosts Michelle Witte and Bob Schlehuber on Tuesday.

    “They never agreed to the prisoner release … and they’ve dragged their feet and kind of been forced along by the US at every step of the way. They do not want the US military to withdraw from Afghanistan, probably because they fear for their lives, much like the Soviet-installed government in Afghanistan collapsed several years after the Soviet Union withdrew their own troops,” Sleboda added.

    “At the same time, you have forces within the US government, if you want to call it the deep state, the unelected bureaucracy, the security services and some of the military and the foreign policy establishment … that also do not want US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan,” Sleboda pointed out.

    “They seem to be sabotaging that effort politically with anonymous leaks to the press of dubious information, questionable intelligence and so on,” Sleboda noted.

    The New York Times in June reported, citing anonymous US intelligence sources, that Russia paid Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The allegations have since been dismissed by Russia, the White House, the Pentagon and the Taliban.

    “We saw accusations that Russia had put bounties out for the criminal elements associated with the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan a few weeks ago. That was never backed by any solid evidence. In fact, the US intelligence agencies officially say they cannot confirm that this was ever a real thing, and now the latest story is that it’s kind of a repeat, except it’s Iran this time,” Sleboda noted.

    Two unnamed intelligence sources recently told CNN that the Iranian government offered bounties to Taliban militants to target US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

    According to the sources, the bounties were paid to the Haqqani network, an Afghan guerrilla insurgent group, to attack the Bagram Air Base on December 11, 2019. The attack led to the deaths of two civilians and injured 70 others, including four US personnel. The Haqqani network may have also received payments from Iran for at least half a dozen other attacks on coalition forces, according to the sources.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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