In a war faint-hearts pop up to plead that things look so bad that the right course of action is to open talks with the enemy and see what negotiations will bring. This was true even when we were dealing with enemies as implacable as the Nazis and the Soviet Communists. Remember the code words of collaboration and détente. Once such suggestions are broached, of course, the enemy spots the loss of confidence, and rightly concludes that attack will bring greater rewards than any compromise or peace deal.
That’s where we are with the Taliban. British politicians and generals regularly wring their hands and moan that the war against the Taliban cannot be won, and there must be a firm date for withdrawal. Defeatism of the sort accepts implicitly that victory will go to the Taliban. One Afghan has just spotted the opening this gave him. Impersonating Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, he approached MI6, the British Secret Service, and offered to hold talks on very favorable terms. The real Mullah Mansour has the rank to make such an offer. The British so badly want to believe what this man was saying that they gladly deceived themselves and flew him to Kabul, introduced him to President Karzai and paid him up to half a million dollars. The humiliation could hardly be more complete.
I happen to have been reading and reviewing the history of MI6, a wonderfully informative new book by Professor Keith Jeffery, an historian in Northern Ireland. He has had access to files that have been closed. Throughout the existence of MI6 fraudsters have been coming in with tales of information to sell, and the trick has been to sort what the intelligence operatives called rogues and scallywags from genuine informers. Not easy. For example, someone who once claimed to have reports from the Persian embassy in Moscow was actually providing a Turkish translation of parts of the Koran. On the other hand, a German Communist by the name of Heinrich de Graff walked into the MI6 station in Berlin and had lots of valuable information to give about the Soviets.
This Afghan took everyone for a ride, and this includes President Karzai and his Afghan advisors who have even less excuse than MI6 for failing to detect a fake Mullah Mansour. One has to admire this man’s craftiness, nerve, and ability to act the part. In reality he was a shopkeeper. He’s vanished but probably only to prepare a next step of obtaining asylum in Britain on the grounds that his human rights are being infringed in his own country, and using his MI6 dollars to amass a fortune.