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Peter Galbraith Tells His Side of the Afghan Election Story

Peter W. Galbraith

Peter W. Galbraith

A couple of days ago, I predicted we would be hearing more from Peter Galbraith on his recent firing from his post as deputy special representative of the United Nations in Afghanistan, by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Today Galbraith tells his side of the story in The Washington Post. Galbraith says he was ordered not to talk to the press, but since the UN chief didn’t honor their agreement on the public announcement of his firing, Galbraith no longer feels bound by that agreement.

Peter Galbraith is the son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and the author of two books on the war in Iraq: The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End (2007), and Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies (2009). In 1987, Galbraith discovered Saddam Hussein’s systematic genocide of the Kurds. In 1997, Bill Clinton appointed Galbraith U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. He worked for the UN in East Timor and has taught at the National War College. Galbraith tried to convince the Reagan administration to act by writing the “Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988”
, but the bill was never passed, and Colin Powell convinced Reagan and Bush to let the gassing of the Kurds slide.

Now Galbraith is making an impassioned plea for the U.S. to recognize the fraud that took place during the recent election in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s presidential election, held Aug. 20, should have been a milestone in the country’s transition from 30 years of war to stability and democracy. Instead, it was just the opposite. As many as 30 percent of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent, and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates. In several provinces, including Kandahar, four to 10 times as many votes were recorded as voters actually cast. The fraud has handed the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners.

The election was a foreseeable train wreck. Unlike the United Nations-run elections in 2004, this balloting was managed by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC). Despite its name, the commission is subservient to Karzai, who appointed its seven members….

Isn’t that just ducky? In his role of superviser of UN support for the Afghan election, Galbraith quickly learned that the risk of fraud was going to be high.

Along with ambassadors from the United States and key allies, I met with the Afghan ministers of defense and the interior as well as the commission’s chief election officer. We urged them either to produce a credible plan to secure…polling centers (which the head of the Afghan army had told me was impossible) or to close them down. Not surprisingly, the ministers — who served a president benefiting from the fraud — complained that I had even raised the matter. Eide ordered me not to discuss the ghost polling centers any further. On Election Day, these sites produced hundreds of thousands of phony Karzai votes.

According to Galbraith, the UN simply sided with Karzai, whose government may not even be recognized by more than half of the Afghan population.

Afghanistan is deeply divided ethnically and geographically. Both Karzai and the Taliban are Pashtun, Afghanistan’s dominant ethnic group, which makes up about 45 percent of the country’s population. Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main challenger, is half Pashtun and half Tajik but is politically identified with the Tajiks, who dominate the north and are Afghanistan’s second largest ethnic group. If the Tajiks believe that fraud denied their candidate the chance to compete in a second round, they may respond by simply not recognizing the authority of the central government. The north already has de facto autonomy; these elections could add an ethnic fault line to a conflict between the Taliban and the government that to date has largely been a civil war among Pashtuns.

If Galbraith is right, how can President Obama order more U.S. troops into Afghanistan now? Won’t the US be perceived to be aligned with the U.N. in installing Karzai through election fraud and basically handing Afghanistan back to the Taliban?

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29 Responses

  1. Galbraith is a true American hero, if you ask me.

  2. My president was selected. America has no moral authority to question the legitimacy of any other country’s elections.

    • Maybe not. But then we ought to get the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

      • My great-nephew just spent the summer at Nat’l Guard camp, all of 17 years old. I think it was a rash decision, but all I can do is hope that he doesn’t end up with the worst consequences.

      • I ran into a Kurdish friend of mine the other day. He told me not to believe the media, and that the war was over in Iraq.

        So much so that he was planning on sending his daughter, who recently got her degree in architecture, over there in a year or two, to help with reconstruction.
        She did her thesis on modern uses of mudbrick and earth architecture BTW.


        • In the Kurdish section in the north of Iraq, the war has been essentially over for a couple of years at least. Too bad that doesn’t take into account what happens in the rest of the country.

          • I asked him if that included the rest of Iraq and he said yes.
            That what tensions there were (including with Turkey) were things that they had always lived with.

          • Frankly, the Kurds want us out of their affairs and I don’t blame them. They have propagandized for a long time and would like nothing more than break and to form Kurdistan on Turkey’s doorstep. Whether they do that or not may determine the next war in the region. Who knows?

            So long as there is someone’s boot on their neck, tensions will be what there are. Take that boot off, and sooner or later it will come off, and tensions could become vengence. That’s the way of the world outside US and EU borders.

            The US should pull out of Iraq and let the country find it’s own fate in any case.

      • Getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq are high on my to do list.

    • people always have the moral authority to do what is right and it seems very clear that the Iranian election was a fraud. We should stand up for the people there….then maybe we will find the will to stand up for the people here.

      BTW, if Kennedy really cheated in IL, I am not surprised that the right is still pissed off about that. However, Kennedy also won HI, so IL did not matter.
      This year and in 2000, the cheating DID change the course of history and the fact that this time it was my own party which cheated me is even worse than what happened in 2000. Both men are extremely incompetent for the office of President of the USA.

  3. Here’s another good article on Afghanistan in the WP.

    “If the foreigners leave, one man will just set fire to the next man’s house,” said Mirza Mahmad, 50, who was playing marbles with his grandson in this central Shomali town. “When I was a soldier, we defeated the Russians with old clothes and borrowed bullets, and they got stuck in the mud of Afghanistan. We need the Americans, but if they don’t win the trust of the people, they will get stuck here in the mud forever.”

    • More:

      They also fear another source of violence, even closer to home. Tensions surrounding the Aug. 20 presidential election, still bogged down in fraud allegations with no winner declared, have stirred up old enmities among former militia bosses who peacefully divided up power after the Taliban defeat. Now, residents warn, these men could go back to war in a heartbeat.

      Signs of trouble are already appearing in the political void across Afghanistan, as people wait anxiously for two commissions to investigate the election fraud charges and announce the final results. Campaign workers and government officials have been targeted in an atmosphere of rising partisanship and criminality as well as terrorism.

  4. Just as in 2000, our current president is a product of cheating (intimidation, ballot box stuffing, vote stealing, rules breaking and elitist selection) and denying the people’s vote. How do we expect him to care about Iran’s faux election?

  5. Apparently, Corzine is doing a lot better the NJ gov’s race now. RD won’t be happy about that.


    • i still hope he loses

    • The 3rd party appears to be taking votes away from Corzine’s challenger. He may just enable Corzine to win.

      • ACORN is probably organizing for the 3rd party.

        • that would be a trip. could be.

        • I don’t know but the leading independent is Daggett – there are lot of people running for Governor in NJ this year – Corzine sc@wed the pooch when he gave away our votes for Hill.

    • Christie imploded in the debate the other night – the guy is just another empty suit- I don’t support Corzine but Christie would be much worse – I keep telling folks to look at Daggett (independent) and communicating with his team.

  6. They hired the wrong pitchman.

  7. Afghanistan: It bothers me deeply that we go into these 3rd world countries with all our power and promises and then we fold when we realize it requires us to spend our blood and treasure. Repeatedly, we fail miserably to understand and work with the reality of the people. Repeatedly, we find ourselves in bed with the corrupt and the incompetent. I know everyone wants to get out of these countries. My brain tells me that is probably the best thing to do but I also think—this IS the world we live in. We are going to be repeatedly confronted with these same scenarios. When do we learn to do it right in partnerships with other nations such that we do not create more disasters but so that we help to build stability in the world.

    I know that a big part of our plan is that we are wholly dependent on the military as our major tool. Funds for USAID, the Peace Corps and other agencies that bring some measure of good will has fallen dramatically. We have a tool box that is basically an assortment of hammers. I do not blame our military; I blame our political system that is corrupt and as incompetent as anything it meets in the world at large.

  8. James Galbraith, his brother, is another great American.

  9. Reading the full report that Galbraith had published, I wonder what his advice would be on the future of Afghanistan. I do not get the sense that he would recommend that we leave that place. I get the sense that he would recommend that we push the UN to hold a runoff election that has real credibility and try to ensure that we have a credible partner in that most troubled land. And if that does not happen, then the cause is truly lost. He even says that the election should have been a watermark, a true turning point, so he must see some reasonable base for Afghan’s future as something more than a narco failed state.

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