This one falls in the “laugh so you don’t cry” category. The Afghan government and NATO has been negotiating for months with someone they thought was Taliban second-in-command Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, hoping to find a way to end the nine-year war. But it turns out — whoops! — this supposed militia leader was an imposter. In reality, he was just a shopkeeper from Quetta, Pakistan, who was running a scam. And according to the New York Times, it worked:
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
Positively identifying the members of an ultra-secret, resilient militia is not an easy task, of course. But considering the fact that intelligence failures allowed an al Qaida suicide bomber to infiltrate a CIA outpost in Khost last year and kill 7 employees, the fact that a faker could get a face-to-face meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is embarrassing — and frightening. Just imagine what could have happened if he was a killer instead of a con artist.
But the most damning statement comes from an anonymous U.S. official in Kabul, who spoke to the Washington Post:
One would suspect that in our multibillion-dollar intel community there would be the means to differentiate between an authentic Quetta Shura emissary and a shopkeeper. On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It may have been Mullah Omar posing as a shopkeeper; I’m sure that our intel whizzes wouldn’t have known.