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Bad “Intelligence”


Blake Hounshell rips on NATO for only now figuring out that the high-ranking Taliban leader with with whom they had been in negotiations over the future of the country was an impostor:

How embarrassing. If only they’d looked out for these 10 ways of telling the true Talib from the con man, we wouldn’t be in this mess:

10. Keeps asking if the peace talks can be held in the Maldives

9. Eyepatch switches sides from meeting to meeting

8. Introduces himself as “Colonel Iqbal from the ISI”

7. Runs up a large minibar tab at the Four Seasons Kabul

6. Wife angling for a spot on “The Real Housewives of Kandahar”

5. Claims to be texting Mullah Omar but is actually just playing Angry Birds the whole time

4. Offers to settle Afghan War with a game of Jenga

3. Turban made of an actual towel

2. Wears trench coat, offers to sell the letters O and U

1. Agrees to trade Osama bin Laden for Justin Bieber

At La Riposte, the Editor doesn’t think it’s funny:

While this may sound a bit humorous on the surface, it also raises a very serious question. If U.S. intelligence can’t positively identify someone with whom their government is engaged in face-to-face negotiations, how on Earth are they capable of making positive identification of other Taliban leaders who they are targeting for assassination? It makes the term “suspected militants” a little, well, suspect. Who are we really killing with our drone-launched Hellfires, anyway?

It’s an open question how this revelation will influence public and media opinion on the value of negotiations with the Taliban as a means to a denouement, especially with the Koreas now dominating the news cycle. (The Center for American Progress has a useful new report on the topic of negotiations.) But at Democracy Arsenal, Michael Cohen argues that it’s not peace talks that should be abandoned, but ISAF’s role in brokering them:

Instead of relying on ISAF to move political negotiations forward or reach out to Taliban moderates (as it is they seem far more geared toward sowing discontent rather than laying the groundwork for reconciliation) this incident speaks to the need for an outside and independent mediator to facilitate talks, a political framework that acknowledges the legitimate aspirations of the Taliban insurgency and above all the centrality of a political, not military solution, for ending the war in Afghanistan.

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