Galbraith on Karzai claims: “This is so absurd as to be laughable”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the United Nations and other foreign entities for interfering in the country’s presidential election last summer, saying they sought to rig the vote to thwart his reelection bid, Joshua Partlow reports today in the Washington Post. Karzai allegations of U.N. meddling come at a time when his government is facing ...

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the United Nations and other foreign entities for interfering in the country's presidential election last summer, saying they sought to rig the vote to thwart his reelection bid, Joshua Partlow reports today in the Washington Post.

Karzai allegations of U.N. meddling come at a time when his government is facing mounting criticism from the Obama administration. In a recent visit to Kabul, President Obama sought to convey to Karzai the importance of reigning in corruption within his government.

Karzai lashed out at foreign elements for seeking to undermine his government. He accused Peter Galbraith, the deputy chief of the U.N. mission before he was fired -- in a dispute over the U.N.'s role in the Aug. 20 elections, and Philippe Morrillon, a retired French military officer who headed an EU vote-monitoring mission -- of rigging the election, according to the Post.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the United Nations and other foreign entities for interfering in the country’s presidential election last summer, saying they sought to rig the vote to thwart his reelection bid, Joshua Partlow reports today in the Washington Post.

Karzai allegations of U.N. meddling come at a time when his government is facing mounting criticism from the Obama administration. In a recent visit to Kabul, President Obama sought to convey to Karzai the importance of reigning in corruption within his government.

Karzai lashed out at foreign elements for seeking to undermine his government. He accused Peter Galbraith, the deputy chief of the U.N. mission before he was fired — in a dispute over the U.N.’s role in the Aug. 20 elections, and Philippe Morrillon, a retired French military officer who headed an EU vote-monitoring mission — of rigging the election, according to the Post.

"There was fraud in the presidential election and the provincial election; no doubt there was massive fraud," Karzai said. "That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that. That fraud was done by Galbraith. That fraud was done by Morillon. And that fraud was done by the embassies here."

Karzai’s comments escalated a political battle that began when he signed a presidential decree in February that revised Afghanistan’s elections law to give him more power to appoint the members of what had been a U.N.-led commission that investigates voting fraud. On Wednesday, the lower house of the parliament rejected that decree in a significant rebuke to Karzai, which he called unconstitutional.

In a telephone interview with Turtle Bay, Galbraith said today, "This is so absurd as to be laughable. Karzai was the beneficiary of the fraud and people he appointed to the election committed the fraud. I got fired for trying to prevent it."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired Galbraith after he clashed with the mission’s then special representative, Kai Eide, who stepped down early last month. Galbraith said he was let go for pressing Eide to confront massive fraud by Karzai’s followers.

Eide and other top U.N. officials countered that Galbraith was let go for trying to annul the country’s election process and install a candidate he favored. Senior U.N. officials said Galbraith proposed asking Karzai and his main competitor Abdullah Abdullah to step aside, and to set up a transitional government headed by the technocrat Ashraf Ghani. Galbraith, according to these officials, offered to seek support for the plan from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

"Here’s a man, a U.N. representative, advocating an unconstitutional change of government," Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s chief of staff, said of Galbraith. "Of course he was recalled. What would you have expected us to do?"

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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