I have an article in today’s AfPak Channel over at Foreign Policy on this fake Mullah business.
Are there any lessons we can learn from this? For one, the officials hyping the talks to reporters never seemed to talk about the prospect of American withdrawal. Filkins himself reported last year that this is a primary, unchangeable goal of the Taliban.
But ISAF and Afghan officials spun the talks as evidence that the new, aggressive stance taken by General Petraeus, focused on killing mid-level commanders to ‘force’ the Taliban to the negotiating table, was working. They were partially right: something had changed. But it wasn’t the effectiveness of their tactics or strategy. Instead, this episode confirms what many Afghanistan watchers have long feared: the leadership of ISAF doesn’t seem to have any idea what it’s doing, who it’s talking to, and (probably) who it is really killing.