Kim Sengupta: Whether a conman or spy, he made fools of Western forces

Talks seemed so delicate that officials had asked the media not to mention Mullah Mansour by name

Share
Related Topics

By any diplomatic or military yardstick the tale of an imposter pretending to be the Taliban's chief negotiator was a disaster. What gives it added bathos is that peace talks with the insurgency is a central element in the West's exit strategy from the war and what has taken place brings the process into question.

At the Nato summit in Lisbon last weekend Mark Sedwill, the urbane British diplomat who is the Alliance's chief civilian official in Afghanistan, asked about the progress of the talks, said he was not aware of any significant developments. One can only assume he had not been told that "Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour", second ranking in the Quetta Shura after Mullah Mohammed Omar, on whose presence such hope had been placed, was not who he seemed to be. The prized delegate, brought in secretly on a UK military aircraft, was indeed from Quetta, but, according to reports, was a shopkeeper, possibly a greengrocer.

So delicate were these talks that Western officials had requested media to desist from even mentioning Mullah Mansour by name. To do so, they warned, risked his life and would have jeopardised a most promising avenue for a settlement. They could point to a previous occasion when it became known that the then Taliban No 2, Abdul Ghani Baradar, was holding talks with the Karzai government. The Pakistanis, determined that they should be brokering any deal and thus retain influence in the future of Afghanistan, arrested him.

Mullah Mansour is said to have taken over from Baradar and a man claiming to be him put out feelers about talks. A meeting was held in Dubai with an Afghan delegation followed by two visits to Kabul to talk to President Karzai and senior Western officials. The senior Talib left with assurances that the Afghan government and Nato were sincere in seeking a negotiated peace – and a pocketful of cash.

No one appeared to doubt the authenticity of the figure they were talking to until the end, when an official from Kandahar, having met Mansour before, pointed out the dissimilarities in his features.

If the fake Mullah was sent by the ISI it is another example of how the Pakistanis, recipients of huge amounts of Western aid, are running rings around the US and allies. But one would like to think he was a shopkeeper from Quetta who saw the main chance and made cash out of the new "Great Game", making very important people look foolish.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn