Taliban mock NATO over 'fake' negotiator incident
The Taliban has praised an imposter who reportedly duped British intelligence agents into believing he was a top militant commander in a position to negotiate peace in exchange for cash.
Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6 believed the man to be insurgent leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a figure capable of negotiating with US and Afghan officials, The Times and The Washington Post reported last week.
The Taliban, in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday and released through the SITE Monitoring service, said the episode has become "a stigma on the forehead of the Americans and their allies."
The imposter exposed the American position towards talks with the militant group, the statement added, repeating the Taliban's stance that it will not negotiate while Afghanistan remains under occupation.
Agents flew the man on Royal Air Force transport planes from Pakistan to Kabul on several occasions and paid him several hundred thousand dollars but it now appears he was either a minor rebel, a shopkeeper or even just a conman, the reports said.
He has since disappeared.
In an interview with the Post, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff Mohammad Umer Daudzai 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 him as saying.
Britain's Foreign Office refused to confirm or deny the reports about the fake Taliban leader but admitted that it provides "practical help for Afghan reconciliation initiatives."
Karzai has said that progress was being made in the "reintegration progress of the government opposition," or Taliban-led insurgents, as he looks to end the bitter and bloody conflict.
The Taliban have signalled a willingness for a political solution, according to a government-backed peace council, while NATO's top commander said his troops had helped at least one Taliban leader get to Kabul to meet officials.
© 2010 AFP