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Peter Galbraith on 'massive' Afghan election fraud

This article is more than 10 years old.
Amb. Peter W. Galbraith(AP)
Amb. Peter W. Galbraith(AP)

Ambassador Peter Galbraith joined us for an hour on Thursday morning. On Wednesday, he was recalled — fired — from his post as the second-highest ranking diplomat in the United Nations mission in Afghanistan after clashing with his boss, Kai Eide, head of the UN mission in Kabul, over how to handle widespread fraud in the August elections.

Galbraith had written a letter on Sept. 28 to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in which he was harshly critical of Kai Eide. The New York Times has drawn a connection between the letter and Galbraith's firing. Galbraith disputed that, but went on to describe what led to his being recalled.

TOM ASHBROOK: Why are you out?

AMB. PETER GALBRAITH: There was no connection between my recall — that's the diplomatic term for being fired — and the letter that I sent. The decision had to do with a dispute between Kai Eide, the head of the mission, and myself over how to handle electoral fraud. It was a long-running disagreement, as I outline in the letter that The New York Times has published, going back to July. Basically, I felt that the United Nations had to be serious about its mandate to support free, fair, and transparent elections. And at various stages of the process the head of the mission opposed the effort to do something about — opposed concrete steps to diminish the risk of fraud, and then once the fraud took place to try to correct it.

Tom followed up by asking, "Is there not room in the UN mission for this kind of very critical voice of what went on? You accuse the head of the UN mission there of actually siding with incumbent President Karzai."

Galbraith: "Yes, well, Kai Eide told me that he was biased toward President Karzai, although he also said that he didn't believe that — that he was not supporting Karzai, but that he wanted the man to win."

Galbraith went on to explain what's at stake in the election results — and how the election is perceived by Afghans — as President Obama reviews U.S. strategy and weighs whether to commit additional U.S. troops.

President Obama's strategy requires a partner who is credible. We cannot do the job in Afghanistan on our own. We need to have a credible Afghan government that is interested in providing services to the people, that is capable of providing good, honest administration, on both the national and the local level. And whose tenure in office is accepted by the Afghan people. The Karzai government has been characterized for the last 7 years by corruption and ineffectiveness. And now, if President Karzai in fact continues in office, it will be the product of an election in which there was a massive fraud. I’m not saying that President Karzai would not have won anyhow, I think it’s quite possible that he would’ve won, and certainly if there was a run-off. But nonetheless, the fraud has tainted the credibility of the process, and therefore will certainly affect how Afghans, and particularly those who supported Karzai's opponents, see the legitimacy of the government....

What we had in this election was wholesale fraud. That is to say, in at least a thousand polling centers, the polling centers never opened. And yet, votes were manufactured in those polling centers, or perhaps not even manufactured, merely reported. And in that circumstance, it’s possible that 1/3 of the votes that President Karzai was reported to have received were fraudulent. Incidentally, there was also fraud in the tally of Dr. Abdullah and Ramazan Bashardost, the third candidate, maybe in some of the others. But not on the scale that there was for President Karzai.

Listen to the full interview here.

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