Taliban impostor was "groomed by ISI to delay, counter check us": NATO official

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Islamabad, Nov 26 (ANI): The 'Taliban impostor', who took part in the Afghan reconciliation talks as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement, was 'groomed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence' (ISI), a senior member of NATO in Afghanistan has said.

The impostor was "someone the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) groomed to delay and counter check us," the Daily Times quoted the NATO member, as saying.

"We are on top of things. We know where the guy went to and deposited those briefcases," he added.

However, Pakistan's intelligence community and the ISI have denied these claims as "ridiculous". "Its there own failure, not ours," they maintained.

While it may be true that such an implant could be an intelligence asset of a rival intelligence community, it also reflects the nature of the US-Pakistan relationship of acute mistrust and conflicting strategic interest in Afghanistan.

According to the Times newspaper, British intelligence agency MI6 was responsible for promoting the impostor, believing him to be a senior Taliban commander key to the Afghan peace process.

"British intelligence was naive and there was wishful thinking on our part," the Times quoted a senior Afghan government official, as saying.

The US had given the man claiming to be Mansur, Mullah Omar's number two, "a lot of money" to engage in talks.

NATO and Afghan officials said that they had held three meetings with the man, who travelled from Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge, and that the fake Taliban leader even met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace. Karzai, terrified of looking like a laughingstock, denied the meeting, the paper said.

Meanwhile, the Quetta Shura, which is now based in Karachi, confirmed that Mansur "is in safety and had never negotiated with the Americans and the West," the Daily Times reported.

"Only Mullah Muhammad Omar is entitled to sanction such negotiations. We will only talk after the full withdrawal of NATO and US troops from Afghanistan," said Zabiullah Majahid, the Taliban's spokesman.

While different versions of the identity of the so-called 'Taliban impostor' are being discussed, some sections of the US military in Afghanistan knew about the real identity of the Taliban impostor from the start, but deliberately kept quiet, the paper said.

The idea was to 'wait and watch', while the real agenda was to prolong and sabotage the 2014 withdrawal date announced by US President Barack Obama and recently decided in Lisbon at the NATO conference, it added.

The whole 'Taliban imposter' episode also brings to light the dubious role of the US and NATO in Afghanistan, and especially that of the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, who has been able to reap the political benefit from the fact that most journalists and the US political elite believe that it was his manoeuvring, combined with the surge, that produced the Sunni turn towards cooperation against al Qaeda in Iraq, the paper said.

But the Petraeus success formula in Iraq had largely been mythical, where a lot of his critics believe that in Iraq, the Sunnis had begun shifting towards joining anti-al Qaeda militias before Petraeus took over command in February 2007, it added. (ANI)

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