It was one of the most embarrassing political incidents of the year in Afghanistan: Widely touted reports that Karzai had met with a high-level Taliban leader proved to be a debacle.
The high-level Taliban leader, it turned out, was an impostor.
When the news broke, Afghan and Western officials began deflecting blame and pointing their finger at others.
Some accused the UK of bringing the impostor to the table. Others said it was the US military leadership that approved the discussions.
NATO officials told The New York Times that they were actively helping the Taliban leader by providing him with safe passage and flights into Afghanistan.
This week, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, told ABC News that he and the US military always had doubts about the man professing to be a top Taliban official.
George Stephanopoulos: There was that embarrassing-- that embarrassing episode a couple of weeks ago, where it turned out-- supposedly a top level Taliban who was negotiating with the Afghan government turned out to be an impostor. How could that happen?
Gen. David Petraeus: Well, it was not a surprise, George-- that the--
George Stephanopoulos: Not a surprise?
Gen. David Petraeus: Not at all. That's the—
George Stephanopoulos: Well, then why--
Gen. David Petraeus: There was doubt—
George Stephanopoulos: --the person let in?
Gen. David Petraeus: This was-- there was enormous doubt about this individual from the very beginning. And decisions were made to go ahead and pursue that just to see where it leads. Partly because it-- maybe he actually proves to be who he is. But more than likely, even if he doesn't, you-- you see what dynamics that creates-- see how it evolves. And there was-- there was-- healthy skepticism about that individual...
George Stephanopoulos: But you decided to give it a chance?
Gen. David Petraeus: Well, again, this is not our decision. This reconciliation is an action that the Afghan government carries out in some cases with the-- some degree of at least knowledge or assistance of international elements.
George Stephanopoulos: Are there any serious talks going on right now?
Gen. David Petraeus: If there were, I wouldn't tell you about them. But I think that observers have noted that there are various strands of outreach that are out there.
But the ABC News interview neglected to touch on an important point: It was Petraeus himself who generated much of the international media attention by repeatedly trumpeting the talks when he spoke to reporters.
Petraeus began telling reporters about the talks in the fall.
“The prospect for reconciliation with senior Taliban leaders certainly looms out there, and there have been approaches at [the] very senior level that hold some promise,” Petraeus said in early September.
A few weeks later, Petraeus made the same point during a visit to Bagram Air Base.
“There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government and, indeed, have done that,” Petraeus told reporters in late September.
The stories generated significant political buoyancy for Petraeus in the lead up to the December review and helped to create a perception that the American military surge had pushed battered Taliban leaders to the bargaining table.
When the story fell apart, Petraeus and other US military officials suggested that they had long had doubts about the credibility of the Taliban leader.
Why, then, did Petraeus repeatedly talk up the dubious talks with reporters as he was preparing to present his assessment of the war to President Barack Obama?
(AP Photo/Gen. David Petraeus introduces President Barack Obama at Bagram Air Base on Friday, Dec. 3, 2010)