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Taliban impostor reveals perils of negotiation

Images from the front lines of the military effort in Afghanistan.

The Afghans are still puzzling over the man's motivations. They suspect he might have been sent by Pakistan's spy agency to see what Afghans would offer, or by the Taliban to test if the Kabul visit was a trap, or to make money.

Speaking from Berlin, Petraeus said Tuesday that there had long been skepticism about one man claiming to be a Taliban leader. "It may well be that that skepticism was well-founded," he said.

Other U.S. military officials described the episode as an expected pitfall when trying to negotiate with insurgents during a war.

"It reinforces why you've got to look at all these guys with suspicion," a U.S. military official said.

The official was reminded of Iraq in 2003, when informants purported to know the hiding place of Saddam Hussein.

"Some of this reconciliation stuff tends to be Elvis sightings," the official said.

But the official discounted the notion that Mansour was considered the coalition's best chance to have a dialogue with the Taliban.

"I don't think anybody thought that was the most promising lead, or that we had all our eggs in that basket. There are lots and lots of baskets."

DeYoung reported from Washington.

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