Traditionally, the American people have cared very little about foreign policy. In part, that’s because they assume that the experts that are handling it know exactly what they’re doing. Tragically, this is all too often a completely erroneous assumption.
If you want to see a story that illustrates that, well wow, you really couldn’t do much better than the one you’re about to read. How bad is it? Imagine that Larry, Curly, and Moe are running the State Department’s ground game in Afghanistan and you’ll get the general idea. Am I exaggerating? Well, read the excerpts from this New York Times story and my comments afterwards and form your own conclusions:
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.
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.”
We handed piles of money to some random con man and spent months negotiating with him even though he was running a fraud? That sounds like a spy novel? It actually sounds more like a Saturday Night Live skit.
NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.
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.
Can we confirm whether Barack Obama has ever bowed to this guy?
American officials say they were skeptical from the start about the identity of the man who claimed to be Mullah Mansour — who by some accounts is the second-ranking official in the Taliban, behind only the founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Serious doubts arose after the third meeting with Afghan officials, held in the southern city of Kandahar. A man who had known Mr. Mansour years ago told Afghan officials that the man at the table did not resemble him. “He said he didn’t recognize him,” said an Afghan leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Western diplomat said the Afghan man was initially given a sizable sum of money to take part in the talks — and to help persuade him to return.
“American officials” were skeptical of this imposter from the start. Oh, of course they were. That’s why they gave him a “sizable sum of money.” On the other hand, they do still seem to be a step ahead of the geniuses in the Afghan government.
While the Afghan official said he still harbored hopes that the man would return for another round of talks, American and other Western officials said they had concluded that the man in question was not Mr. Mansour.
So, if the man does return for another round of talks, will they give him more money? What if a different guy shows up and claims to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour? Does he get cash? What if there are three of them? Better safe that sorry, right?
As recently as last month, American and Afghan officials held high hopes for the talks. Senior American officials, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the talks indicated that Taliban leaders, whose rank-and-file fighters are under extraordinary pressure from the American-led offensive, were at least willing to discuss an end to the war.
Since the last round of discussions, which took place within the past few weeks, Afghan and American officials have been puzzling over who the man was. Some officials say the man may simply have been a freelance fraud, posing as a Taliban leader in order to enrich himself.
Others say the man may have been a Taliban agent. “The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service,” said a senior Afghan official who is familiar with the case. “They are playing games.”
Others suspect that the fake Taliban leader, whose identity is not known, may have been dispatched by the Pakistani intelligence service, known by its initials, the ISI. Elements within the ISI have long played a “double-game” in Afghanistan, reassuring United States officials that they are pursuing the Taliban while at the same time providing support for the insurgents.
Translation: We have no idea who in the hell that guy was.
Whatever the Afghan man’s identity, the talks that unfolded between the Americans and the man claiming to be Mr. Mansour seemed substantive, the Afghan leader said. The man claiming to be representing the Taliban laid down several surprisingly moderate conditions for a peace settlement: that the Taliban leadership be allowed to safely return to Afghanistan, that Taliban soldiers be offered jobs, and that prisoners be released.
I believe that he also said he was friends with Mariam Abacha, the wife of the former Nigerian head of state who recently passed after a tragic accident. He then noted that the American officials had kind eyes and that he was trusting them with a terrible secret: He had 300 million dollars in funds frozen in an American bank that can’t be accessed from outside the country. If only they would be willing to front him a few paltry million dollars for expenses, he’d be willing to give them the account number so that they could collect the money. As a reward for their faith and help, he’d give them half the money! With a deal like that on the table, how could they turn it down?