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A fake encountered

The imposter in the Taliban-Afghan talks showed how easy it is to fool even tech-savvy Nato.

india Updated: May 21, 2011 17:00 IST

It could be straight out of a spy novel or from a particularly loopy Monty Python movie. The secret talks between the Taliban and Afghan leaders under the watchful eye of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) seem have run into identity problems. The insurgent leader and one of the senior most commanders of the Taliban at the table, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, it now transpires, was an imposter. He was even flown down to Kabul in a Nato aircraft to have a natter with President Hamid Karzai and showered with money. Dear, oh dear, whatever happened to all that smart identification technology?

He was finally found out when an Afghan official noticed that he looked markedly different from the real Mansour. We can imagine the conversation. "My friend, when I last saw you, you looked far more prosperous and your eyes were green." The fake Mansour would answer, "I have knocked off a few pounds, brother, it's all this cave living and staying awake watching for the drones. Oh, I'm wearing brown contacts because I find the winter sun a bit harsh." The Taliban must be laughing up their beards that the Afghans and Nato fell for that old wheeze.

Now it's anyone's game. Are the Americans sure that the toothsome gent they have been yammering with in Islamabad is really Asif Zardari or some stand-up comic from Southall? Or that the man they thought was Hamid Karzai is not really an extra who had escaped years ago from the sets of Lawrence of Arabia? You can never be sure these days if you are getting the real McCoy. This is where technology kicks in. What we need is a skeletal profile using the new scanners deployed in American airports. That way, we will be able to see right through any shyster posing as an insurgent. This is the only way to understand the situation inside out and not take things at face value.