[QODLink]
Europe
UK's MI6 'paid Taliban impostor'
Report says a man posing as a Taliban leader who led peace talks was paid and promoted by British intelligence.
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2010 06:46 GMT
The Taliban have repeatedly denied that secret high-level peace talks are taking place with the Afghan government

Britain's foreign intelligence agency, often referred to as MI6, is said to have promoted an impostor who they believed was a senior Taliban commander touted as key to the Afghan peace process, according to the New York Times.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) agents paid Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour from May this year, believing they had achieved an "historic breakthrough" in forging contacts between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the US newspaper said on Friday.

Agents paid the man several hundred thousand dollars, convinced he had the authority to negotiate with US and Afghan officials on behalf of the Taliban, The Times and the Washington Post reported, citing Afghan officials.

'Wishful thinking'

"Far from being a former Taliban government minister, the individual concerned is now thought to have been a shopkeeper, a minor Taliban commander, or simply a well-connected chancer from the Pakistani border city of Quetta," the New York Times said.

The Times said the MI6 flew "Mansour" from Quetta to Kabul on numerous occasions, believing he was second-in-command to Mullah Omar, to take part in "secret peace talks".

"Something this stupid generally requires teamwork"

Bill Harris,
Former US representative in Kandahar province

Afghan officials told the newspaper that a meeting took place with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, in his Kabul palace, although Karzai has denied knowledge of the meeting.

The Times quoted a senior Afghan government official as saying on Thursday: "British Intelligence was naive and there was wishful thinking on our part."

It was believed that the US had helped Britain check the man's bona fides using signal intelligence, the Times reported.

Bill Harris, the former US representative in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, told the Times on Thursday that it was not British intelligence officers alone who were responsible for the error.

"Something this stupid generally requires teamwork," he was quoted as saying.

US checks

Justin Crump, an intelligence expert and former British Army officer also said the British intelligence services should not necessarily take all the blame.

"The Americans checked the individual out, the Afghans approved the meeting," he told Al Jazeera.

"The Afghans not recognising this figure until quite late in the day is actually the most surprising part of this whole thing. This guy was checked out not only by the Afghans, but also by US intelligence assets.

"The sophistication behind this - the fact that he did have inside knowledge of the Taliban according to US sources - indicates ... there's a degree of Taliban involvement. Whether that's just opportunism or whether that had slightly more nefarious intent, it's hard to say."

However, the US' most-senior military official said on Friday that the US had long suspected that the man was an impostor.

"There were very early initial suspicions. And it took a little while to verify who he was or who he wasn't. And, in fact, it turns out that he wasn't the guy that he was claiming he should be," Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with CNN due to air on Sunday.

He also rejected the suggestion of an intelligence breakdown, saying "the intel world actually tipped us in the right direction with respect to that".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
join our mailing list