Karzai Refutes NY Times – Denies Meeting With Taliban Impostor
What a PR disaster…
Afghan President Karzai refuted The New York Times story from yesterday that he had been holding secret meetings with a Taliban impostor.
The man pretending to be Mr. Mansour was given diplomatic treatment for his role in the talks, including being flown on NATO aircraft from Pakistan to Kabul and escorted to the presidential palace for three meetings.
FOX News reported:
A man leading the Taliban side of peace talks with the Afghan government was an impersonator, an Afghan close to the negotiations said Tuesday, an embarrassing revelation for Afghan officials who have promoted reconciliation efforts as the best chance for ending the war.
Quickly moving to do damage control, President Hamid Karzai dismissed the reports as “propaganda,” saying neither he nor any other members of his government had ever met with a man named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour — one of highest ranking members of the Taliban council leading the insurgency.
The report about the impostor first appeared in The New York Times and the Washington Post.
An Afghan familiar with the reconciliation efforts, speaking confirmed that a delegate claiming to be Mansour “was a fraud.” He spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his contacts with both sides.
Karzai denied that anybody named Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was ever brought by NATO to Afghanistan for meetings with him and other officials.
“I did not see Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and Mullah Mansour did not come to Afghanistan. Don’t accept this news from the foreign press regarding meetings with the elders of the Taliban because most of them are propaganda,” Karzai said.
NATO, which was reportedly deeply involved in the meetings and purportedly flew the impostor to Kabul, did not immediately comment on the reports.
Mansour, a former civil aviation minister during Taliban rule, is a senior member of the Taliban’s ruling council in the Pakistani city of Quetta. That council, or shura, is run by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
If confirmed, the claims that he was not really involved would be a blow to the Afghan government’s push to find a political resolution to the nine-year-old war. It also raised questions about the credibility of some NATO officials who have said they facilitated contacts between Taliban figures and Afghan officials.
According to the reports, the impostor met with Afghan and NATO officials three times — including once with Karzai — before they discovered he was not Mansour. He was allegedly paid to attend.
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