Peter W. Galbraith served as United Nations deputy envoy to Afghanistan from June to September 2009. He was fired after urging the U.N. to respond to what he described as "massive electoral fraud" committed by the Afghan Independent Election Commission during the 2009 national elections.
1. Why do you think Karzai blamed you specifically for election fraud during last year's national elections?
I can't imagine why Karzai would accuse me of orchestrating the fraud. As is well known, I thought the U.N. had a responsibility to prevent fraud in what were U.N.-funded and U.N.-supported elections. My superiors felt so strongly that the U.N. should not get involved that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired me.
Karzai's accusation that I was behind the fraud is therefore exceptionally bizarre. He claims I committed the fraud -- involving more than one million phony Karzai votes -- so I could leak this to the media and weaken him.
Obviously it raises more questions about his state of mind than about anything I did.
It is interesting, though, that he now admits his re-election was fraudulent.
2. Why do you think Karzai has recently been lashing out against the U.S. to Afghan officials and parliamentarians? Do you think there is credence to the idea that he is simply posturing himself as an independent leader who is the sole arbiter for reconciliation talks with the Taliban?
Afghans see the same weird behavior that we do. Afghans know Karzai's was not legitimately re-elected, and they wonder why he would make such improbable allegations [and thereby draw renewed attention to the elections]. The NATO coalition is reasonably popular with many Afghans, and Afghans rightly worry that Karzai's antics will alienate his country's most important supporters.
3. On Tuesday, the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to say whether Karzai is an ally or not. Is he an ally? Yes, but not a useful one. I think Gibbs was wrong to call Karzai the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan. It undermines U.S. credibility when the White House says something Afghans know is not true.
4. Do you think that U.S. public pressure from the Obama administration on Karzai to fight corruption helps or hurts the effort to achieve that end? Karzai has no desire to fight corruption and is not capable of so doing. Stealing an election is the ultimate corrupt act as it enables all subsequent larceny.
Of course, the Obama administration has to make the effort but there is no prospect that it will make a material difference.
5. What needs to be done to have an honest election in September? What are your expectations? Will we see honest elections this time?