Reports of promising talks between the Taliban leadership and the Afghan government raised hopes that there might be a negotiated peace in sight for the nine-year war in Afghanistan—but as it turns out, the talks never occurred. Thinking they were meeting with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, perhaps the second highest-ranking member of the Taliban, Afghan leaders were in fact meeting with an impostor. After the third meeting, a man who’d known Mansour years before said he didn’t recognize him; many in the Taliban leadership are marginally literate clerics residing in rural areas, who’ve never been glimpsed by NATO or Afghan officials. The impostor was flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and met with President Hamid Karzai. A Western diplomat said the man was initially given a large sum of money to curry favor and persuade him to return to the talks.