By Ali K Chishti
In what has been described as the biggest mishap of the century, which could potentially cost the US and NATO billions of dollars and thousands of lives, the chief negotiator of the Taliban that the US, Afghanistan and NATO were resting all their hopes on turned out to be a “hoax”. The US gave a man claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, Mullah Omar’s number two, “a lot of money” to engage in talks. He was also flown to Kabul to consult with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace. Karzai, terrified of looking like a laughingstock, denied the meeting.
Daily Times has obtained a version from the Quetta Shura, in which they denied any talks or links with NATO and denied having received any money from the alliance. The Quetta Shura, which is now based in Karachi, confirmed that Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur “is in safety and had never negotiated with the Americans and the West. Only Mullah Muhammad Omar is entitled to sanction such negotiations. We will only talk after the full withdrawal of NATO and US troops from Afghanistan,” confirmed Zabiullah Majahid, the Taliban’s spokesman.
Mullah Mansur is a well-known Taliban leader and has a high profile job in the movement’s cabinet. It is not clear as to why officials would have had such a difficult time identifying him. There are a number of former Taliban in parliament and in the 70-member High Peace Council recently formed by Karzai to find a political solution to the insurgency. It was reported that the man was believed to be a shopkeeper in Quetta.
Although quite senior in the Quetta Shura, Mansur was not promoted to second-in-command of the shura following last February’s arrest of Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban’s number two leader was arrested in a joint raid with the CIA. Mansur was passed over in favour for Maulvi Zakir Qayyum — a former Guantanamo detainee. Released into Afghan custody in 2007, Qayyum was freed four months later and rejoined the Taliban.
While different versions of the identity of the so-called ‘Taliban impostor’ are being discussed, Daily Times can confirm that some sections of the US military in Afghanistan knew about the real identity of the Taliban impostor from the start, but deliberately kept quiet. The idea was to ‘wait and watch’, while the real agenda was to prolong and sabotage the 2014 withdrawal date announced by US President Obama and recently decided in Lisbon at the NATO conference.
So who was the ‘Taliban impostor’?
“Someone the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) groomed to delay and counter check us,” a senior member of NATO in Afghanistan told Daily Times.
“We are on top of things. We know where the guy went to and deposited those briefcases,” he said.
On a different side on the border in Pakistan, the intelligence community and the ISI denies these claims, calling them “ridiculous”.
“Its there own failure, not ours”.
While it may be true that such an implant could be an intelligence asset of a rival intelligence community, it also reflects the nature of the US-Pak relationship of acute mistrust and conflicting strategic interest in Afghanistan.
The whole ‘Taliban imposter’ episode also brings to light the dubious role of the US and NATO in Afghanistan and especially that of General Petraeus.
Petraeus has been able to reap the political benefit from the fact that most journalists and the US political elite believe that it was Petraeus’ maneuvering, combined with the surge, that produced the Sunni turn towards cooperation against al Qaeda in Iraq. But the Petraeus success formula in Iraq had largely been mythical, where a lot of his critics believe that in Iraq, the Sunnis had begun shifting towards joining anti-al Qaeda militias before Petraeus took over command in February 2007.
In Pakistan last week, US President Barack Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, played down reports that senior Taliban leaders were holding talks with the Afghan government.
By Ali K Chishti