Afghan spy agency denies talks with Taliban impostor
Afghanistan's intelligence agency on Saturday denied pursuing talks with a fake Taliban leader after media reports claimed that British spies had flown the impostor to government peace talks in Kabul.
The reports said Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6 had paid a man who was believed to be insurgent leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour several hundred thousand dollars and flown him to Kabul on several occasions.
Agents even flew the man on Royal Air Force transport planes from Pakistan to Kabul on several occasions, but it now appears he was a minor rebel, a shopkeeper or even just a conman, The Times in London and the Washington Post reported.
But Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the impostor was sniffed out after early talks in the border areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan and was never flown to the Afghan capital to meet government officials.
"(He) was due to enter Afghanistan on behalf of the Taliban to pursue negotiations with Afghan officials, but in a preliminary contact with the man in the border areas, NDS regional officials became suspicious of his identity and stopped his transfer," NDS said in a statement.
The statement also acknowledged that "certain contacts and negotiations have been taking place with the Taliban's circle of leaders, and this process is ongoing."
Mansour is an ex-Taliban government minister and currently second to Mullah Omar in its leadership.
The agency's claim contradicts what President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff Mohammad Umer Daudzai said in an interview with the Washington Post, where he said the British brought the man purporting to be Mullah Mansour to meet Karzai in July or August.
But an Afghan at the meeting knew "this is not the man," the Post quoted Daudzai as saying.
Afghan officials told The Times that a meeting took place with Karzai in his Kabul palace, although the president on Tuesday denied there had been any such meeting.
Britain's Foreign Office has refused to confirm or deny the reports about the fake Taliban leader but admitted that it provides "practical help for Afghan reconciliation initiatives".
© 2010 AFP