General James Mattis once advised his Marines in Anbar Province that an America that worked with Stalin to defeat Hitler could certainly work with former insurgents to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq. Similarly, the US has attempted the same approach in Afghanistan, choosing to work with more moderate elements of the Taliban instead of the hard-core extremists, in an attempt to further Afghanistan's the peace process.
Only, instead of working with Stalin to defeat Hitler, we've just been dealing with Crazy Ivan from down the street. Reports the New York Times:
Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor
KABUL, Afghanistan — 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 repeated 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.
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from across the border in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.
The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said.
The episode underscores the uncertain and even bizarre nature of the atmosphere in which Afghan and American leaders search for ways to bring the nine-year-old American-led war to an end. The leaders of the Taliban are believed to be hiding in Pakistan, possibly with the assistance of the Pakistani government, which receives billions of dollars in American aid.
Is this week over yet?
Update: Lauren Jenkins tweets thusly, "At least we weren't negotiating with terrorists"!