Desperation is never pretty

by Joshua Foust on 11/23/2010 · 4 comments

And we’re coming off as pretty desperate:

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.

Is it even worth saying at this point? Anyway, we gave this man millions of dollars and sat him down in front of Hamid Karzai and General Petraeus and we have no idea who he is or what his intentions are. This is beyond sloppy on ISAF’s part, but, I am utterly depressed to say, completely unsurprising.

It’s cute that Filkins wonders if the man could have been identified by fingerprints or something. But not endearing. I’m glad, at least, that Carlotta Gall had the piece end with Sayed Amir Muhammad Agha saying:

“Whenever I talk to the Taliban, they never accept peace and they want to keep on fighting,” he said. “They are not tired.”

I hate to say it, but that’s what all the Afghan hands have been saying for months. The idea that the Taliban is eager to sit down for talks—and it has stated, quite explicitly it is not—is just more ISAF spin, trying to convince us we’re winning the war.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Anonymous November 23, 2010 at 6:23 am

Doonesbury’s reverse Red Rascal strikes again!

Caleb Kavon November 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Folks…put this down as one of the memorable and highly representative moments of this failed venture-This Mansour was the “high level” contact that Petraeus featured in his “we have pressured them to surrender” mantra for the December Review.

Aside from Chalabi and the Iranians (total and complete fiasco) this just “takes the cake” At what point does total and complete incompetence in this war get noticed???

Complete and radical change of both the management and philosophy of this war is needed immediately. Folly which is leading to catastrophe cannot be allowed one day longer.

Petreaus and Company have become symbols of a parody enmeshed within a tragedy that has been known for ten years as “Enduring Freedom” with the emphasis on enduring… in never ending and getting worse by the day.

Frank November 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

So as embarrassing as this is, what does this do for Taliban-ISAF-GIRoA negotiations going forward? I understand the Taliban are not willing to negotiate now, but does an incident like this make it almost impossible for it to happen at any point? If so, does that leave unilateral withdrawal as the only option for the US to end the war?

ML November 26, 2010 at 8:59 am

I’m no political analyst, but the news that “Taliban are ready for talks” struck me as absurd from the start, a typical exercise in wish-fulfilment propaganda. But that’s because the Taliban are not a football team: even if one mujahed identifying as a “talib” agrees to “talk”, there are hundreds of taliban who won’t. The ISAF however cannot afford to get past this nominalism in the pursuit of its end-game, for it keeps going the illusion of a coherent enemy.

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