Do we need to give Karzai instructions on pay-to-play?

In yet another embarrassing bit of incompetence by the leaders who have the power to order our fellow citizens to their death, it turns out that the Taliban leader, supposedly Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was negotiating with Afghan leaders over the future of Afghanistan, was an imposter.

The one to the left of the guy holding the rocket launcher was the one we paid to negotiate with us. He's a spitting image of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour. Anyone can see that.

The New York Times notes that the talks with this imposter “appeared to be showing promise.” With the small problem, that is, that the other side is not able to deliver on whatever they promised.

Per the Times: “‘It’s not him,’ said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. ‘And we gave him a lot of money.’”

It is a measure of how hopeless our situation is that we have been encouraging this negotiation at all, much less that we have to pay someone we think is a senior commander of our enemy to talk. And after nine years of fighting this enemy, we can’t tell if that someone is the senior commander. This is what we come to expect from a national security state whose intelligence budget (so-called) is larger than the entire military budget of the second largest military spender in the world, China. I guess you just can’t buy competence at any price.

But here’s the thing that truly sticks in my craw. We know that Karzai is adept at gamesmanship, corruption, electoral fraud and duplicity (to name of few things). How is it he does not know the rules to pay-to-play. Under the rules of this game, the person seeking a benefit from the government actually pays in order to get that benefit or at least be in consideration for it. It’s actually a pretty basic game with a lot of regional and national variations. For example, many people think Steve Rattner actually paid government employees in order to have the right to invest some of New York States enormous pension fund. Just to keep people guessing, Mr. Rattner invoked his right not to incriminate himself when the Securities and Exchange Commission asked him about it. Surely Karzai knows about this. In fact, my guess is that this particular game was being played when various Iranian agents brought bagfuls of money to Karzai.

So why exactly were we paying Mr Manasour (or the guy we thought was Mansour)? Shouldn’t he have been paying Karzai? How did Karzai allow this revenue stream to go untapped? It doesn’t make sense that Karzai was around under-the-table payments, but failed to rake in any of what is called “a lot of money” (and when a Western diplomat in Afghanistan is talking “a lot of money” I think it’s safe to assume that we’re talking more than you’re likely to see for this year’s Christmas bonus). Or did he?

Fortunately our military is not accountable to any civilian authority and even if it were there isn’t anyone interested in pursuing it. Our military is in the habit of losing, lending, giving, forgetting, misapplying large sums of money, huge caches of weapons and vast amounts of computers and other assets wherever it goes. And especially if one of our clients scoops it up, it’s none of anyone’s business where the stuff went. In fact, it’s a military secret.

The Times says that this “episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel …” The writer probably has not read many good spy novels. It more resembles a Marx Brothers’ movie.

The decision of the Administration to go all-in in this conflict sure is looking wiser and wiser every day.

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