James Forsyth

The search for peace leads Britain to pay a Taliban impostor

The search for peace leads Britain to pay a Taliban impostor
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That the British government paid a substantial sums of money and attention to someone who they thought was Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a Taliban leader who was the civil aviation minister in the Taliban government, but who turned out to be a shopkeeper from Pakistan shows just how eager Britain is for some kind of political deal that would make it possible for British troops to leave by 2015, the deadline that David Cameron has set.

The Washington Post’s piece on the matter, has the Afghan government blaming the mistake on British ‘haste’ for a political settlement.  In The Times the recently retired US representative in Kandahar, reflects that “senior US military always felt that their British comrades in arms might outrun their headlights on reconciliation unless reined in.”

Given that the Americans seem to have been sceptical of the supposed Mansour on the grounds that he wasn’t as tall as he should be, it shows just how willing the British were to suspend disbelief to try and jumpstart the peace process. The desire for a political settlement is totally understandable. But as John Bew and Martyn Frampton’s excellent book, Talking to Terrorists, argues peace deals are most likely to stick when the insurgency feels that it is failing militarily. That is not currently the case in Afghanistan.