It took the New York Times less than a week to piece together this secret Russian scheme, and now we have the name of the Afghan middleman who reportedly funneled the money to the Taliban for each dead American servicemen. The Times writes of a small time drug dealer who also tried to get a piece of the billions in U.S. reconstruction money. But suddenly, the man began to flaunt his funds.
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.”
When American officials figured out what was going on, they began by arresting family members of Mr. Azizi. But they soon found that the prime suspect has disappeared, possibly back to Russia.
The price for each dead American could go as high as $100,000.
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.
It’s unclear, according to the Times, how the money was disbursed to the killers, but the network had grown “increasingly ambitious” and involved more senior leaders of the Taliban