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Petraeus not surprised about Taliban impersonator

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  • Petraeus not surprised about Taliban impersonator

    Petraeus not surprised about Taliban impersonator
    4 mins ago

    BERLIN Gen. David Petraeus says reports that a man leading the Taliban side of peace talks with the Afghan government was an impersonator are "not a surprise" because "there was skepticism about one of these all along."

    The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday even President Hamid Karzai would not be surprised by the reports.

    Petraeus says there has been skepticism "all along, and it may well be that that skepticism was well founded" regarding the identity of one man claiming to be a Taliban leader.

    An Afghan close to the negotiations has said that the man, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who claimed to be one of highest ranking members of the Taliban council leading the insurgency, was a fraud.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) A man leading the Taliban side of peace talks with the Afghan government was an impersonator, an Afghan close to the negotiations said Tuesday, in a setback to efforts to negotiate an end to the war.

    President Ahmed Karzai has moved quickly to dampen the fallout from his alleged meeting with a man named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour supposedly one of highest ranking members of the Taliban council leading the insurgency by denying the encounter even took place.

    He dismissed the reports as propaganda.

    "I did not see Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and Mullah Mansour did not come to Afghanistan. Don't accept this news from the foreign press regarding meetings with the elders of the Taliban because most of them are propaganda," Karzai said.

    The report about the impostor first appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

    An Afghan familiar with the reconciliation efforts, confirmed that a delegate claiming to be Mansour "was a fraud." He spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his contacts with both sides.

    NATO, which was reportedly deeply involved in the meetings and purportedly flew the impostor to Kabul, did not immediately comment on the reports.

    In Paris, the top American commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus waved off questions from the AP seeking comment about the incident. Petraeus was giving an address at Paris' Sciences Po institute.

    Mansour, a former civil aviation minister during Taliban rule, is a senior member of the Taliban's ruling council in the Pakistani city of Quetta. That council, or shura, is run by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

    According to the reports, the impostor met with Afghan and NATO officials three times including once with Karzai before they discovered he was not Mansour. He was allegedly paid to attend.

    Mansour was well-known and it is unclear why officials would have had such a difficult time identifying him. There are a number of former Taliban in parliament and in the 70-member High Peace Council recently formed by Karzai to find a political solution to the insurgency. It was reported that the man was believed to be a shopkeeper in Quetta.

    If confirmed, the claims that he was not really involved would be a blow to the Afghan government's push to find a political resolution to the nine-year-old war. It also raised questions about the credibility of some NATO officials who have said they facilitated contacts between Taliban figures and Afghan officials.

    The final results of the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections were also expected to be announced on Wednesday by the Afghan electoral commission.

    The election is being watched carefully by Karzai's Western allies for signs that the Afghan president is committed to reforming his corruption-ridden government. The election was the first since a fraud-marred presidential poll last year nearly undermined the legitimacy of Karzai's government and pushed some NATO countries to threaten to pull troops and aid.

    Karzai said the elections were an opportunity for Afghanistan to strengthen its democracy and not a potentially destabilizing event.

    "Destabilization of the country I am sure will not happen, and we will not allow it. But of course we want an election that will reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people," Karzai said.

    The president also took the opportunity Tuesday to complain about some of NATO's military operations aimed at crushing the insurgency.

    Karzai expressed his concerns about night raids, which have caused friction between him and international forces, at a weekend summit with NATO leaders in Lisbon, Portugal.

    NATO says the night raids have taken a significant toll on the leadership of insurgent networks.

    "The position and stance of the Afghan government was very clear and is very clear," Karzai said. "Those night raids which cause civilian houses to be destroyed, cause civilian causalities or they are entering people's houses without coordinating with the Afghan forces ... we are against them."

    The coalition hopes night raids will weaken the Taliban by pressuring the midlevel commanders to abandon the battlefield and force top insurgent leaders to the negotiating table. NATO says it conducts the operations jointly with Afghan soldiers and that shots are fired in less than 20 percent of the operations.

    Karzai did praise the long-term partnership agreement that NATO has made with Afghanistan, and reassured the Afghan people that NATO's support would not cease after 2014 when NATO's combat role is set to end.

    Meanwhile, there were developments in the ongoing dispute over the rule of private security companies in Afghanistan. Gen. Abdul Manan Farahi, the Interior Ministry official in charge of overseeing security firms told the AP, they could continue protecting aid and economic development projects in the country until their current contracts expire.

    The decision comes despite an earlier order that all security companies disband by mid-December.

    It also clears up uncertainty that had been hanging over large companies involved with ongoing aid and development projects for the U.S. and other foreign governments since a presidential decree to disband them was issued in August.


    Kathy Gannon contributed to this report from Islamabad, Heidi Voght, Deb Riechmann and Patrick Quinn contributed from Kabul.
    Copyright 2010 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    Interesting new spin:

    Taliban impostor warnings ignored by Afghan leaders, says former spy chief
    Desperate for a peace deal with the Taliban, officials dismissed security advice over bogus go-between

    Jon Boone
    The Observer, Sunday 28 November 2010

    Hamid Karzai's desperation for a "Good Friday agreement for Afghanistan" led officials to ignore repeated warnings from their own spy chief that they should not trust a man who orchestrated a humiliating face-to-face meeting between the Afghan president and a shopkeeper who pretended to be the Taliban's second most powerful leader.

    Amrullah Saleh, the former head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's equivalent of MI5, said his agency first vetted the man, who claimed to be a representative of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, one of the highest-ranking figures in the Taliban, in mid-2008, but rejected him after he was unable to prove his credentials.

    However, the go-between, who said he was a Taliban leader from Kandahar called Muhammad Aminullah, subsequently approached the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, the following year and was enthusiastically embraced by an Afghan government desperate for a breakthrough in peace talks.

    Saleh, a highly regarded administrator who was sacked by Karzai earlier this year, said all his warnings were ignored. "I tried time and again to convince my colleagues in the ministry and subsequently at the palace that he is not a genuine representative of anybody," he told the Observer.

    The rare public statement by Afghanistan's former top spy contradicted attempts yesterday by the Afghan government to deny that "Mansour" had ever held high-level meetings in Kabul. It also further undermines claims by the Afghan government that MI6 was entirely to blame for the fiasco.

    Saleh said it was Karzai and senior officials trying to find an opening for negotiations with the Taliban leadership who were primarily at fault. "This became so exciting that even certain figures were thinking of either an Afghan Dayton agreement or Good Friday agreement for Afghanistan," he said. "It shows the desperation of the leadership in Kabul, detachment from the reality and lack of sophistication on the most sensitive issues."

    The impersonator was given large sums of money as a goodwill gesture and had three meetings with Afghan officials, including one with Karzai, where an Afghan government official who had met Mansour before rumbled the impersonator. "I have to say taking him to the president was the biggest mistake," Saleh said. "That shows lack of insulation around the top leadership of this country."

    He was first contacted by a man called Aminullah in mid-2008 who carried a letter of introduction supposedly from Mansour. Saleh said he was open to exploring the potential avenue, saying the NDS wanted to "develop the source, test his access, enhance his access and then decide what to do politically".

    However, the spies soon became "very suspicious" of Aminullah, who failed the tests the NDS developed for him, and then "lost track of him".

    The former NDS chief, who was removed from his post after the Taliban attacked a high-profile peace conference in Kabul in August, insisted that by publicly criticising the way the government handled the affair he was in no way making a political attack on Karzai or his former colleague Atmar.

    "I am not criticising anyone personally, I enormously respect Minister Atmar, but there has to be proper system of government. They should have respected the views of the intelligence community."

    Atmar, who was sacked at the same time as Saleh, yesterday told the Observer that he was unable to comment on state secrets, but said he was angry at the way Karzai's chief of staff had publicly put all the blame for the fiasco on MI6, the British intelligence service.

    Western sources say that the UK did play a role in the debacle, with MI6 acting as a key intermediary because the CIA is not authorised to talk directly with insurgents. However, the decision for the British to proceed was taken by General Stanley McChrystal, the former US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan.