After U.N. firing, vindication for Peter Galbraith

By Laurie Bennett

October 26, 2009 at 7:30am

Recent events in Afghanistan haven’t returned Peter Galbraith to his old job, but they have brought affirmation.

Galbraith was fired last month from his post as the United Nations special deputy for Afghanistan, after criticizing the U.N. for not being tough on fraud in the nation’s presidential election.

In subsequent weeks, auditors have thrown out enough votes to put the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, below the 50 percent required for clear victory. Karzai, under pressure from the United States, has agreed to a runoff election against Abdullah Abdullah, his former foreign minister.

Not until after Galbraith’s complaints were publicly aired did the U.N. team led by his former boss, Kai Eide, declare its findings of significant fraud.

Peter Galbraith
Peter Galbraith

In a column published by the Washington Post, Galbraith later said:

For weeks, Eide had been denying or playing down the fraud in Afghanistan’s recent presidential election, telling me he was concerned that even discussing the fraud might inflame tensions in the country. But in my view, the fraud was a fact that the United Nations had to acknowledge or risk losing its credibility with the many Afghans who did not support President Hamid Karzai.

…President Obama needs a legitimate Afghan partner to make any new strategy for the country work. However, the extensive fraud that took place on Aug. 20 virtually guarantees that a government emerging from the tainted vote will not be credible with many Afghans.

Galbraith brought significant connections and international experience to the U.N. job.

He is the son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, an adviser to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and author of The Affluent Society. The elder Galbraith also served as editor of Fortune magazine and U.S. ambassador to India.

Peter Galbraith has served as ambassador to Croatia and was adviser to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, like his father, was an ambassador to India. He participated in negotiations on Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Timor-Leste. He is also a close ally of Richard C. Holbrooke, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While Galbraith’s firing increased focus on his complaints about the Afghanistan election, it also heightened scrutiny of his professional and business dealings.

As a diplomat, he argued that Iraqi Kurds should control the oil in their region. As a businessman, he has dealt with oil companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2004, according to comments he made to the Boston Globe.

Galbraith told the Globe he had disclosed his business dealings before taking the U.N. job. Critics, however, say he should have been open about his investments when he was advising Kurdish leaders during 2005 negotiations between Iraq and the U.S.

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