- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has fired a top political adviser in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, for publicly questioning the legitimacy of Aug. 20 elections that could give President Hamid Karzai a second term in office.

“The secretary-general has decided to recall Mr. Peter Galbraith from Afghanistan and to end his appointment as the deputy special representative of the secretary-general,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Ban said Wednesday. “The secretary-general has made this decision in the best interest of the mission.”

The highest-ranking American in the U.N. political mission in Kabul, Mr. Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat, apparently took his concerns to election monitors, whom he thought should be preparing for a runoff between Mr. Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the top challenger to the Afghan president.

There has been widespread concern that the election was rigged by intimidation and ballot-box stuffing to the incumbent’s benefit.

Mr. Galbraith, to the U.N.’s chagrin, discussed this publicly with nongovernmental groups and international election monitors.

He has since returned to his home in Vermont.

Kai Eide, the Norwegian who heads the U.N. Afghan mission, will continue with Mr. Ban’s “full support,” the organization said in a terse statement.

Mr. Galbraith told National Public Radio that his dispute with Mr. Eide was over the latter’s decision not to disclose multiple cases of fraud.

“When the question of fraud came up, I simply could not ignore it; I could not be complicit in a cover-up; I could not downplay it,” Mr. Galbraith told NPR.

As an example of one dispute, Mr. Galbraith said Mr. Eide opposed releasing data on “hundreds of cases of fraud and a lot of evidence on turnout that showed a very low turnout in the southern provinces, from which, however, a large number of votes were reported to have been tallied.”

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas declined to elaborate or take questions on the matter.

The delay in announcing final results from the Aug. 20 vote has created concerns about a power vacuum in Afghanistan that could make it harder for U.S.-led forces to roll back a growing Taliban insurgency.

Mr. Eide told the Associated Press, “Primarily, we had a somewhat different approach to the election process.” He declined to elaborate.

Preliminary results showed that Mr. Karzai won 54.6 percent of the vote, but enough votes were in question that he could drop below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Mr. Galbraith worked for the U.N. in East Timor in 2000-2001 and as the U.S. ambassador to Croatia from 1993 to 1998.

• Betsy Pisik can be reached at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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