On Tuesday we learned that the much-heralded “peace talks” NATO orchestrated between the Afghan government and Taliban officials had included several meetings with an impostor claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. This news appeared to place General David Petraeus in a very bad light, as he had even been described as having “facilitated the talks by allowing Taliban officials to fly to the meetings in safety.” Little wonder, then, that the Washington Post felt obligated to engage in some Petraeus image rehabilitation. They happily did so today by trying to place the blame for the impostor on the British. The New York Times was quite happy to join in on this effort, contributing a “no comment” from British intelligence and quoting a passage from the Post article describing “the British as more aggressive than the Americans in pushing for a political settlement to end the war.”
Here’s the Post placing blame on the Brits:
President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff on Thursday said that British authorities were responsible for bringing a Taliban impostor into the presidential palace and that foreigners should stay out of delicate negotiations with the Afghan insurgent group.
“This shows that this process should be Afghan-led and fully Afghanized,” Daudzai said. “The last lesson we draw from this: International partners should not get excited so quickly with those kind of things. . . . Afghans know this business, how to handle it. We handle it with care, we handle it with a result-based approach, with very less damage to all the other processes.”
The episode has embarrassed Afghan and Western officials, and it has undercut the notion circulated earlier this year by senior U.S. officials that there was some momentum toward possible peace talks.
Not to be outdone, the Times piled on to the Brits:
Authorities in London withheld a formal response on Friday to a reported accusation by a senior Afghan official that the British introduced an impostor posing as a high Taliban commander into the presidential palace in Kabul to meet President Hamid Karzai.
Asked to comment on the report on Friday, a spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office in London said only: “We do not comment on operational matters.”
But even the Times felt obligated to note that the Brits are hardly independent actors in Afghanistan:
Only last month, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, highlighted cooperation between British and American spy agencies “an especially powerful contributor to U.K. security.”
With the next formal assessment of “progress” in Afghanistan quickly approaching, it will be very interesting to see what other actions will be taken in order to paint Petraeus as anything other than the abject failure that he is.