MI6 'blamed for Taliban impostor'
MI6 brought in the fake Taliban commander touted as key to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, it has been claimed.
The British intelligence service is said to have spent a year nurturing and paying a man claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders of the Taliban.
They are said to have paid him at least $100,000 ($75,500) and flew him to meetings with Afghan officials in an attempt to broker a deal between the government and the insurgents.
Eventually an Afghan who knew the real Mansour revealed their mistake but the man was allowed to return to Pakistan, according to reports.
MI6 is thought to have made contact with "Mansour" in Quetta, the Pakistani city where the leadership of the Taliban is based.
Senior British and American officials had acknowledged that they were providing transport for Taliban officials but insisted the negotiations were up to the Afghans.
It is unclear who was responsible for trying to verify "Mansour's" identity, but sources say the British cannot be held entirely responsible.
"It's not him," a Western diplomat in Kabul told the New York Times earlier this week. "And we gave him a lot of money."
Nato and Afghan officials told the newspaper that they held three meetings with the man and he even met with President Hamid Karzai.
He apparently seemed willing to negotiate and did not insist on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, one of the Taliban's key demands.
American officials have claimed they were "sceptical from the start" about the identity of the man who was supposed to be the second in command of the Taliban behind Mullah Omar.
Some officials say the man may simply have been a fraudster while others have claimed he was a Taliban agent and Afghans say he is nothing more than a shopkeeper.
The Taliban leadership has always maintained that there are no talks.