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Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Russian government is working with the Afghan government, regional countries, and the Taliban to "gain increased influence in Afghanistan" and "expedite a U.S. military withdrawal," according to a Department of Defense report published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The report was released amid a mounting controversy over allegations that U.S. intelligence assessed that Russian operatives were paying bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops. President Trump has denied that he was briefed and tweeted Wednesday that the reports are a "Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party."

What's happening: Despite public denials, Russia has supported the Taliban politically to "cultivate influence with the group, limit the Western military presence, and encourage counter ISIS operations," the Pentagon wrote.

  • The report says Russia has supported a U.S.-Taliban agreement "in the hope that reconciliation will prevent a long-term U.S. military presence."
  • Russia has also been working to "address security challenges that might arise" from a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Go deeper: Trump's spy chief to brief Senate panel amid reports of Russian bounties

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 8, 2020 - World

Russia is surrounded by crises

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Russia’s sphere of influence appears to be spinning out of control, with war in the Caucasus, revolution in Kyrgyzstan and an uprising in Belarus.

The big picture: The three crises are very different, but their roots all stretch back to the former Soviet Union — and all three are testing Russia’s influence today.

Harris, Pence clash over Trump's comments about military service members

Sen. Kamala Harris tore into President Trump at the vice presidential debate on Wednesday over his public comments and alleged private comments disparaging military service members.

Why it matters: Last month's report in The Atlantic alleging that Trump called service members "suckers and losers" sparked massive backlash. The president has vigorously denied all aspects of the report.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.