SYNDICATED COLUMN: Conning the Taliban

Confessions of a Phony American Peace Negotiator

For much of the year now drawing to a close, U.S. and NATO bigwigs conducted secret peace talks with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the #2 Taliban official. They paid him tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars to show good will. NATO planes delivered him to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he met with Hamid Karzai.

“But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all,” reports The New York Times. The phony Mansour, Afghan intelligence agents say, was actually “a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta” who looked nothing like the real guy.

You can’t sugarcoat this debacle. L’affair Mansour instantly transformed the United States, previously reviled as the world’s most brutish bully, into an intergalactic laughingstock.

Yes, our government and military are headed by dumb-as-rocks hillbillies. But the Taliban can be fooled too—as I learned during my own top secret mission deep in the deepest valleys between the highest mountains of the Hindu Kush.

I found myself short of cash while traveling in Afghanistan in August. So I devised an ingenious scheme. Call it Operation Turnabout: Why not present myself to the Taliban as a high-ranking American official eager to end the war? It could be fun. It could be lucrative. And who knows? If they fell for it, I’d be up for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Finding Talibs didn’t take long. I walked up to two guys planting an IED. Or they were stoning some chick. I don’t remember. Anyway, it isn’t important.

“Salaam,” I greeted them. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden. Take me forthwith to your leader, Mullah Omar, he of one eye, and see that you are quick about it.”

The rogues chucked me into the back of their Toyota Landcruiser, wrapped in duct tape. Off we went. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they hit every pothole on purpose.

Eventually, we stopped. They ripped the tape off my face. “American dog!” they cried in unison. “Time for dinner!” A kebab vendor glared at me from the side of the road. As did the goat head on the grill.

My animal cunning was too much for the two undereducated brutes. “Alas, my good fellows,” I replied, “my White House Amex card is not accepted by yon locals. Might I ‘borrow’ some money? You know—as good faith?”

Soon I was 17 afghanis richer. My plan was working!

A day or two later, my bound form was carried into an empty poured-concrete room in a complex somewhere in The Remote Tribal Areas Along the Border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and dumped on the floor. A bearded man with an eye patch walked in.

“I am Mullah Mohammed Omar, Head of the Supreme Council and Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said.

“Hi there,” I said. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden of America.”

He grimaced.

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” he asked.

“Ask me anything,” I challenged. “The combination to the safe where the Oval Office porn collection is kept. Vladimir Putin’s cell number. I can even identify most of the American states.”

He smiled.

“Of course you can,” he said. “But you could say anything. We have no way to check it out. The United States is a distant, remote country. Its leaders have never been seen in public, certainly not by Afghans. We don’t even know if there is a ‘Joe Biden.'”

“We must trust one another,” I purred, “if there is to be peace.”

I had him there. He chuckled. “Yes,” he said.

“Of course, travel between my country and yours is very expensive,” I pointed out. “As you may have heard, we Americans have spent all our money on bonuses for bank CEOs and hedge fund managers. So, if our quest for peace is to have a future, you must front me some cash.”

Sated with watery tea and partly-cooked goat parts, I headed for the Peshawar bus terminal. Where I reserved two full seats in coach. So I could ride, legs spread. American style.

Before long the media reported that the Taliban was conducting secret peace negotiations with “a high-ranking U.S. official.” Naturally, the Americans denied the leaks. President Obama spat: “The cunning enemy is trying to expand its military operations on the basis of its double-standard policy and wants to throw dust into the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation.”

No one believed him. No one ever believes Americans.


My brilliant ruse continued throughout the month. Sometimes the two cartoonists with whom I was traveling asked me where I was spending nights. “With Mullah Omar!” I wanted to shout. “Eating his nan and blowing through dozens of his afghanis!” But I couldn’t. “I was in the bathroom,” I lied.

Yes, we are a dumber-than-dumb people led by a stupider-than-stupid government. But the Taliban aren’t much smarter.

So there.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is


7 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Conning the Taliban

  1. You can’t sugarcoat this debacle. L’affair Mansour instantly transformed the United States, previously reviled as the world’s most brutish bully, into an intergalactic laughingstock.

    Between this, and cablegate, it should be pretty obvious that it’s time for Hillary to go. Not that there’s any justification for the rest of Obama’s administration to remain on their sinecures.

  2. Ted — I thought that the liberal line is that our “con” of the Taliban was our telling them that we wanted to capture Osama bin Laden, or that we cared about their misogyny and homophobia, etc., when the real reasons for our bothering them are found with the oil industry and the military industrial complex. The Talibs who seek peace by addressing our professed concerns are the ones falling for the con.

  3. @Lee, you forgot the “war on drugs”. There was a depressing article out a little while ago where some Imams had actually gotten their followers to stop growing poppies as a show of good faith to Americans. Apparently it is the only profitable crop now that all the orchards are gone in Afganistan so all these farmers end up impoverished and loosing everything they have left. Not only did the Americans they were hoping to befriend not care, but the CIA was mildly ticked as they lost a good source of opium they could ship around for fun and profit.

    @Ted: about the math problem spam filters. While a good idea, if you get the chance you might want to make the problems jpg or other pictographic format. Obviously as is it should eliminate a lot, and if it is doing what you need it to, then stick with it. But it is much easier to write a spam bot that parses text (and then solves simple math problems) then it is to write one that can translate pictures to text for parsing and do the same thing. I could write the former, but I am not competent enough to write the latter. But again “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  4. Oh, BTW, it’s getting seriously out-of-hand when Uncle Sam, in the form of the odious “independent” Joe Lieberman (independent from ethical considerations) twists the arm of Amazon, an otherwise great company, to do its bidding with regards to Wikileaks. Not to mention sic’ing the Interpol on Julian Assange, with the apparent complicity of that “noble” Swedish government.
    But wait! There’s still the harpy Palin, calling for Assange’s murder by government. Judgement day may be upon us, indeed.

  5. Im just marveling at how everyone is hoping wikileaks is going to save us all. It’s the new Obama.
    Are some heads gonna roll? sure. But no improvement in the predicament of the bottom 80% of us will occur whatsoever. It will be astonishing how wikileaks will join the various other fact piles out there. All wikileaks can do, at best, is reinforce what we already can tell from numerous other sources. The news are quick to jump on it because they are always looking for free material, but none of this does anything to inform the American public.
    I wont go into the at-worst of it.

    Bucephalus, how dare you impugn Sweden’s good name!

  6. I think it is important to remember that Wikileaks is on no ones side (even its own) in terms of any national or political sense of side. There was an interesting article on Assange in the New Yorker which claimed he saw the world, as a battle between secrecy and openness as opposed to left and right, big government or little, ect…. As a result Wikileaks is hard fast and true to its mission statement which is to publicize all that is sent to it. Thus while I am not a fan of the diplomatic cables being leaked, I don’t feel it hurts the powers that be or empowers the people so much as it worsened world opinion of the US at a time when it is already dangerously low, but I don’t condemn Wikileaks for publicizing it. They are just being true to their stated goals, and to their credit they even contacted the US state department first and asked if they would like to put in any requests for redaction before WIkileaks published the cables, but they got no reply in return.

    Don’t be mad at Assange, he is a man of unwavering and publicly stated principles, they are just principles that reflect a very different view of the world then the most of the rest of us. Instead be mad at whoever sent the info to Assange if you feel the need to be mad at someone about this.

    @bucephalus “Joe Lieberman (independent from ethical considerations)” I am afraid I am going to have to flagrantly steel that, it is just too good not to.

  7. Angelo, I think you misunderstand Wikileaks: it’s not out there to save the day, or be the people’s best hope, or whatever cliché the press uses for the anointed corrupt politician they’re currently favoring. Wikileaks is meant to be a safe haven for whistle-blowers, and it does that brilliantly. Sometimes, the secrets it exposes are not going to please the “left”. Almost always they are going to annoy the “right”. That is just fine by me.
    Someone: since I don’t care at all for IP (other than my employer making me care for theirs), feel free to use any of my lame jokes if you feel they’re worth it!