Fired U.N. Diplomat Says He Warned Against Fraud U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the top U.S. official at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday over differences the official, Peter Galbraith, had with his boss over how to deal with charges of fraud in the Afghan presidential election. Galbraith tells NPR the dispute was over whether the U.N. should do anything about the fraud.
NPR logo

Fired U.N. Diplomat Says He Warned Against Fraud

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Fired U.N. Diplomat Says He Warned Against Fraud

Fired U.N. Diplomat Says He Warned Against Fraud

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The United Nations has removed American Peter Galbraith from his post as deputy U.N. special representative for Afghanistan. Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, was publicly critical of corruption in the recent presidential election in Afghanistan. And he was at odds with his boss, the special representative, Norwegian Kai Eide, over how the U.N. should've responded to the election.

Ambassador Galbraith joins us now. And I've seen a comment attributed to a senior U.N. official that U.N. Kai Eide had a personality clash. This was a dispute over style, not substance. Is that fair?

Mr. PETER GALBRAITH (Former Deputy U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan): No, that's totally inaccurate and it's an effort to obscure the issues that are at stake. This was a serious long-running disagreement about how to handle fraud in the Afghan elections that dates back to July when I recognized that the risk to this election was going to come from ghost polling centers, that is to say, polling centers located in areas that were so insecure that they would never actually open, but which could be used to produce a lot of votes that were never cast by voters.

I tried to get the Afghan government to reduce the number of polling centers and to remove from the list those in these insecure areas - an effort, incidentally, supported by the U.S., the U.K. and NATO. But the Afghan government naturally complained they were the beneficiaries of the fraud. And the - and Kai Eide, the head of the mission, decided that we wouldn't say nothing more about polling centers. We had the same argument when it came to whether we would share the very extensive data that we gathered on fraud in the election with the Afghan electoral institutions.

He was opposed to us providing that data even though we had collected hundreds of cases of fraud and a lot of evidence on turn out that showed a very low turn out in the southern provinces from which, however, a large number of votes were reported to have been tallied.

SIEGEL: Is - you were saying this was not a dispute over whether to be a loud, public and vocal or quiet and discreet about something, it was whether the U.N. should indeed confront the Afghan government at all about the election.

Mr. GALBRAITH: The dispute was whether the United Nations should do anything about the fraud that took place.

SIEGEL: The Karzai government was evidently, to say the least, put off by your approach. The campaign of his rival Abdullah Abdullah has lamented your dismissal very publicly. In all of this, were your risking coming off as an advocate or supporter of Mr. Abdullah in his presidential aspirations?

Mr. GALBRAITH: I was a supporter of something very simple, that is to say, of the right of the Afghan people who voted in parts of the country at considerable risk to have their votes counted in an honest way and for fraudulent votes to be excluded. I had no favorites in the Afghan presidential contest. When the question of fraud came up I simply could not ignore it, I could not be complicit in the cover-up, I could not downplay it.

SIEGEL: The entire process in Afghanistan - the election and the count of the votes and how to deal with the ballots that were challenged, how does all this stack up in your experience as elections in war-torn, developing countries go?

Mr. GALBRAITH: I think it was my view and the view of the other professionals who have been involved in elections that they had never seen a U.N. supported election like this one, that is, with the level of fraud and the blatantly partisan behavior by the Independent Election Commission.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you very much for talking with us about it.

Mr. GALBRAITH: Very good talking to you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Peter Galbraith, who was removed today from his post as deputy U.N. special representative for Afghanistan. A U.N. spokesperson declined to comment on disagreements within the U.N. mission, but said the U.N. is concerned about the allegations of fraud and determine to ensure that every step is taken so that we can have a result that is regarded as legitimate and credible and acceptable by the Afghan people.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.