Joshua Foust’s analysis of the fake Taliban scam that duped the U.S. Army and NATO is spot on, for The AfPak Channel at Foreign Policy:
Remember last month, when all the news was atwitter about the prospect of meaningful negotiations with the Taliban in Kabul?
The story was moderately shocking: a senior Taliban figure was being flown around the region, talking directly with General Petraeus, President Karzai, and other senior figures in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan government. The driving force behind coverage of those negotiations was New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, who wrote that NATO had provided air transportation and secure road travel for Taliban leaders to visit Kabul for the negotiations.
Almost precisely one month later, Filkins and Carlotta Gall are writing the exact opposite:
In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little. ”It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.” … The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said.
Think about this for a moment: a man whose identity no one was able to verify was flown, by NATO, for face-to-face meetings with high-ranking members of the coalition (though Karzai denies having met Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the impersonated Taliban leader in question). We don’t know what his intentions were, nor do we know what information he may have stolen for whatever his ultimate goals are. We can speculate all we want about what really happened: the impostor was out to grab cash (“we gave him a lot of money,” one U.S. official lamented), he was an ISI agent sent to penetrate the negotiations process, and so on. But no matter how we spin it, this is hugely embarrassing for ISAF, for the war, and for any prospects of ending it soon…
[continues at The AfPak Channel at Foreign Policy]