Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:27:38 AM EST
The United States was scammed out of "a lot of money" by an impostor from Pakistan posing to be a high ranking Taliban leader, The New York Times reports this morning.
The man, posing as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, held secret talks with U.S., NATO, and Afghan officials, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and then after three meetings disappeared.
Not surprisingly, these so-called "high-level discussions... appear to have achieved little" and American officials have "given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership."
Promoted by Colman: I have no idea what to do with this, other than to bury my head under a pillow. So screwed up.
As recently as last month, American and Afghan officials held high hopes for the talks. Senior American officials, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the talks indicated that Taliban leaders, whose rank-and-file fighters are under extraordinary pressure from the American-led offensive, were at least willing to discuss an end to the war...
Last month, White House officials asked The New York Times to withhold Mr. Mansour's name from an article about the peace talks, expressing concern that the talks would be jeopardized -- and Mr. Mansour's life put at risk -- if his involvement were publicized.
No one knows who this international con artist is. Was he a Taliban agent? Or an agent from the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service? Or, maybe just some guy playing the Americans as suckers for a quick bit of cash.
The NY Times was unable to learn how the Americans discovered the man was an impostor. However according to Afghan officials, mysterious Mansour's identity was first established by showing photos of the man to Taliban detainees who agreed it was the real Mansour.
I think this constitutes as another high level failure on part of the United States intelligence community. Sadly, this is nothing new to the U.S.-led coalition war effort in Afghanistan. In March 2009, a leaked analysis by the RAND Corporation Rand concluded Intelligence failures are crippling the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan. The report called "for a substantial overhaul of how military intelligence is gathered, organised and acted on." Nothing seems to have become of its recommendations.
For in December 2009, a double-agent killed seven people in a suicide attack inside a CIA outpost in Khost, Afghanistan.
Another report, "Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan" (pdf), released in January 2010 by the Center for a New American Security found that:
Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy... The vast intelligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade. Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the levels of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers - whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers - U.S. intelligence officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.
As of September 2009, the CIA was adding to the nearly 700 of its people deployed in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. Not only that, but "the intelligence expansion goes beyond the CIA to involve every major spy service, officials said". "U.S. intelligence official said that spy agencies 'anticipated the surge in demand for intelligence.'"
Since the end of the Cold War, the CIA has been in search of a mission to justify its existence. The Clinton administration used the "agency as its own private Internet", the NY Times reported in 1995. "The clandestine service, unhappy at being thought of as a billion-dollar news bureau, conceived a plan... The spies proposed narrowing and sharpening their focus on what the C.I.A. calls hard targets."
"The clandestine service is the heart and soul of the agency," says Robert M. Gates, Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 to 1993.
15 years later, Gates is now the
Defense War Secretary directing President Obama's war strategy in Afghanistan.
As for the CIA? Well "the CIA finds job security in Afghanistan" observed Robert Haddick writing in his column at Foreign Policy in October 2009. All options that President Obama has considered last year for his Afghanistan policy, had in common "a requirement for greater CIA participation... Afghanistan seems bound to provide job security for the CIA."
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that a wider role for the CIA in Pakistan was being sought by the United States.
The number of CIA personnel in Pakistan has grown substantially in recent years. The exact number is highly classified. The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA drone program that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes.
CIA Director Leon Panetta has downplayed any suggestions that Pakistan's ISI is helping the insurgent groups that the U.S. and NATO are fighting. "We're getting good cooperation," he said. But just last week, an investigation by The Nation uncovered yet another link between the ISI and the Taliban. "The ISI was making sure that the relations between the Taliban factions weren't destroyed by anyone's betrayal."
The United States is funding the Taliban through contractors that pay the Taliban for 'security', according to Richard Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"All the contractors for development projects pay the Taliban for protection and use of the roads, so American and coalition dollars help finance the Taliban," Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a meeting of White House insiders in October, 2009...
In almost any area with a significant Taliban presence, large chunks of donor funds are being diverted to the insurgents, by various mechanisms, to ensure that projects can progress without interference.
The war in Afghanistan is self-perpetuating. The United States is funding both sides of the war with borrowed money while back home, the nation is locked in a long recession with high unemployment with no end in sight.
The U.S. intelligence community seems to be more interested in perpetuating its own interests in Afghanistan by drawing out the war as long as possible. Despite reports citing the need for accurate intelligence in Afghanistan to make any 'progress' in the war effort, the intelligence community is still getting it wrong as the latest episode with the mysterious Mansour impostor demonstrates.
When President Obama set the nation on this course last year with his war escalation, he promised Vice President Biden that he would not become trapped in the plan if it was not working. Biden warned Obama during Afghan war review not to get 'locked into Vietnam', Bob Woodward reported in the Washington Post in September 2010.
When Obama came down from the residence and saw Biden, he started laughing.
"What you're about to do is a presidential order," Biden advised. It was not a continuation of the debate anymore. "This is not what you think. This is an order." If he didn't stick to those orders, there was no exit. Without them - and this was Biden's main argument - "we're locked into Vietnam."
It might not work. "You may get to the point where you've got to make a really tough goddamned decision, man."
"I'm not signing on to a failure," Obama said. "If what I proposed is not working, I'm not going to be like these other presidents and stick to it based upon my ego or my politics - my political security."
How can the president be certain that anything he is being told regarding the situation in Afghanistan or Pakistan is true? The intelligence community has a vested interest in prolonging this war.
President Obama's Afghanistan strategy does not appear to be working. Some schmuck just made a fool of the United States by posing as a high ranking Taliban official and made off with "a lot of money". Just another small part of a much larger failure.
Cross-posted from Daily Kos.