Seems a grafter has taken the United States for the proverbial 'ride' in Afghanistan. A man posing as the number two in command of the Taliban sat down with U.S. officials and left with suitcases full of money before anyone figured out the con and the man was long gone. Keep in mind this wasn't a smash and grab job, the string took months to play out and no one caught on.
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.This parable and its attendant details betray the deeply fucked nature of our, ah, involvement over there. Even deeply pessimistic people, such as me, have probably been optimistic about the situation.
But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. 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.”
For one thing, it’s pretty clear we have no idea who the fuck we are fighting all the way to the top when we can’t distinguish the Taliban Joe Biden from a fake during peace talks lasting for months. How out of touch are we that in all those months, we were apparently talking to the fake Taliban? Does the Taliban even exist? Doesn’t this undermine the credibility of all those reports about capturing or killing the Number X of Al Qaeda or the Taliban just a little bit, or any other report where we claim to know anything or anyone in Afghanistan? Doesn't this imply that we have little more than a superficial understanding of the political economy of Afghanistan and have no real hope of constructively interfering in the internal affairs of the country?* And as a consequence of this onion skin thin understanding, we are very prone to manipulation and deceit?
* Our government's professed desire for constructive political involvement is, of course, dubious.
Then there is this,
“ Several steps were taken to establish the man’s real identity; after the first meeting, photos of him were shown to Taliban detainees who were believed to know Mr. Mansour. They signed off, the Afghan leader said.”They tried to confirm this high ranking Taliban figure by questioning several detainees, who all agreed he was the guy. Does that cast a pretty long shadow of doubt over every bit of intelligence that our prisoners over there have ever given us? I think what gets me is that it was not just one prisoner, but multiple prisoners. If it was just one guy, that could be a single fuck up. It reads to me like the prisoners have long ago learned to give us whatever we want when it comes to intelligence, they are probably treated better for ‘cooperating’ and allowed out of their dungeon cells for a half hour longer. Everything we think we’ve ever learned from them should be in doubt if they all mis-identified this guy. Moreover, not that it needed any more debasing, but what is left of those arguments from hard-minded realists who believe we need to torture the shit out of these people to get the real information?
Meanwhile, the tanks are rolling in, we are expanding the air war to Pakistan, Obama has pledged to keep us there until at least 2014 and the light is surely just around the corner at the end of the tunnel because you don't change horses in mid-stream while staying the course.