The Taliban impostor and the failure of U.S. intelligence

Those familiar with the greatest Afghan con yet say that the British had spent a year developing the fake Taliban leader as a source and, despite a heated debate and C.I.A. skepticism, General Petraeus was buying into it. The West was putting planes and assets at the poseur’s disposal, and paying him a sum in the low six figures.

“It’s funny but not funny because the consequences are so staggering,” said a Western diplomat. “Put it this way: It was not well handled.”

We’ve heard a lot about the shadow world of Afghanistan, but this is ridiculous. We’re bargaining with the shadow of a shadow. Even President Karzai may have been fooled. The man taking us for a ride may have been taken for a ride.