Petraeus Played

PetraeusRemember when the United States was said to be in negotiations with the Taliban a few months ago? But, Gareth Porter at IPS News reminds us that “the Taliban leadership was firmly denying that they were negotiating with the Afghan government. During the three-day Muslim holiday that began Sep. 9, Mullah Omar had said the Taliban would ‘never accept’ the current government.” Furthermore, writes Porter:

On Sep. 29, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Majahid said Petraeus’s claim that the Taliban were negotiating with the Afghan government was “completely baseless”, and that the Taliban would not negotiate with “foreign invaders or their puppet government”.

As we now know, what happened was:

. . . a man claiming to be Mullah Mansour somehow persuaded U.S. officials, including Petraeus, to help him go to Kabul to talk with Karzai [as a replacement for] Mullah Baradar last March after Baradar was detained by Pakistani intelligence, according to a Taliban spokesman quoted in Newsweek.

It wasn’t long before he began to look like a ringer:

The first warning signal that the man was an imposter was that he gave Karzai regime officials terms for peace that bore no resemblance to the public posture of the Taliban. He suggested that the Taliban merely wanted to be allowed to return safely to Afghanistan, along with promises of jobs and the release of prisoners, according to the Times account. There were no demands for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces or for a change to the constitutional system.

Nevertheless . . .

. . . instead of finding the sudden disinterest in bargaining over those demands suspicious, Petraeus apparently approved giving the man a considerable amount of money to continue the talks.

How could he have been fooled with such ease?

That decision was evidently influenced by Petraeus’s strong desire to believe that the vast increase in targeted raids aimed at killing or capturing suspected Taliban officials that had begun in March had caused top Taliban officials to give up their fundamental peace demands — and that he was now on his way to repeating what was believed to be his success in Iraq.

Surge Afghanistan: The Sequel — Petraeus obviously hoped it would cement his reputation. (And pave the way for a presidential run? Gulp.) It may not be grounds for tendering his resignation. But, in the end, doesn’t this make Petraeus look even more ridiculous than McChrystal did for allowing a Rolling Stone reporter to record his and his inner staff’s indiscreet remarks?