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Hamid Karzai: The NYT’s Faithful Client

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The New York Times has a rather fluffy article in today’s issue about how Abdullah Abdullah, the gentlemen from whom Hamid Karzai stole last year’s election in Afghanistan, was given a “cold shoulder” from the White House.  The United States, it seems, did not want to give an impression of “doubt” that Mr. Karzai, whose brother is Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpin, is serious about “combating drugs and corruption”. A more clear and direct vote of confidence for our faithful client in Afghanistan, one can hardly envision.

The article stands as a tract to justify Karzai’s illegitimate rule in Afghanistan, but it does more than that. The most interesting quote comes halfway through the piece:

“There is no point in rolling out the red carpet for a guy who is wanting recognition for being himself,” said a senior European diplomat who is involved in Afghanistan. “The world doesn’t work that way. Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan.”

Forgive me, but why did this “senior European diplomat” need anonymity to state such a trite banality? Did they really need to hide his identity so that he could spout the US governnment’s “line” with an air of objectivity? And who is this mystery diplomat anyway?

A clue comes in his final statement: “Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan”. Now, it should be clear to anyone who has even loosely followed the debacle of Afghanistan’s election last August that Hamid Karzai is not the rightfully elected leader of Afghanistan, that he fabricated at least one-third of his votes, that he engaged in widespread voter intimidation and ballot-box stuffing, and that nearly every international monitoring agency declared the election in which Karzai won a sham.

The only “senior European diplomat” who has consistently apologized for Karzai’s election “engineering” is Kai Eide, who summarily fired his subordinate, Peter Galbraith, for breaking the story that one-third of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent last October. Kai Eide is one of the most odious UN officials working for Afghanistan, one who has consistently and repeatedly covered up for Hamid Karzai’s staggering corruption, his lawless reprisals against dissent, and his slavish devotion to the US occupation of Afghanistan. It would make perfect sense for him to lend his “expertise” to the New York Times for a hit-piece on his best buddy Karzai’s biggest rival.

But the article is even more insidious than that. Nowhere does it even mention that Karzai’s August 2009 victory was fradulent, save for a single mention that Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s vanquished rival, “accused the Karzai government of profound corruption and electoral fraud“, a sling which could be interpreted as mere sour grapes, if it didn’t happen to be true. An uninformed reader, after digesting this one-sided pap, would come away with the clear impression that Hamid Karzai legitimately won the August 2009 election, and that the United States is correct in giving his losing rival the “cold shoulder”. This is a falsehood and a fallacy. Karzai did not legitimately win the election, and the US is wrong and undemocratic to deny the rightful victor, Abdullah Abdullah, an audience with President Obama, who, after all, is leading a vicious occupation of his country.

A sad showing from the once-venerable Gray Lady.

Written by pavanvan

May 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Talkin’ Taliban

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Kai Eide is the UN “special representative” in Afghanistan, and his former student, Peter Galbraith, has repeatedly accused him of corrupt influence within the Karzai administration, including allegations of vote rigging in last year’s elections (which were widely seen as a fraud). Galbraith was later fired for his accusations.

Now the Times reports Mr. Eide has engaged in high-level talks with Taliban leaders.

Kai Eide, the United Nations’ special representative in Afghanistan, met with a group of Taliban leaders in the days leading to this week’s international conference in London, where President Hamid Karzai invited the Taliban to enter peace talks.

It’s unclear at this point what sort of game Mr. Eide is playing, especially since no details of the meeting (where/when it was held, who represented the Taliban, what was said, etc) are available. But I think it’s pretty clear that the UN – and by extension, the US – are rapidly shifting their strategy from “we don’t negotiate with Terrorists” to “Hey guys, let’s talk about this”.

The plan seems simple enough. To use the overwrought war-as-football metaphor, the US would seem to have “moved the goalposts”. It now appears that we are resigned to some portion of Afghanistan being ruled by the Taliban – perhaps even most of Afghanistan – but at the same time we are unwilling to let go of Hamid Karzai. If I could divine the strategy of our oh-so-wise policy planners, I would think they envision some form of power-sharing arrangement wherein the Karzai government controls Kabul and the heroin-producing regions of Afghanistan and the Taliban take the outlying desert. That way the US can extricate itself with some “credibility” left intact while leaving in place its “stooge” for whatever future plans they have for Afghanistan (permanent military bases, of course, but perhaps a natural-gas pipeline as well).

Eide’s role in all of this is still a bit mysterious. It is clear, from numerous previous statements, that Mr. Eide is very close to the Karzai regime and is willing to invest quite a lot to see it saved. That he fired his subordinate for leaking the Afghan election fraud is further evidence of this. It seems likely Mr. Eide is using his role as a UN envoy to prop up the Karzai regime and shield it from international criticism.

It’s still unclear whether the Taliban will be willing to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. This must be a very difficult decision for them. On one hand, the Americans are on the run and lack the resources to prosecute their effort for more than another year. Just holding out for a few more months can get them a better deal – and if (as our planners fear) the Taliban have the resources to resist indefinitely, control of Afghanistan is almost assured to them. On the other hand, if the Taliban find themselves running low on resources, morale or income, the smart thing to do would be to negotiate now. They might not get a better deal later.

But given the string of audacious attacks on Kabul, I think it safe to say the Taliban’s operations proceed unhindered. So I expect they will reject the offer of negotiation and press on.

The Karzai regime is immensely unpopular, and the only thing between him and an angry mob are American soldiers. Unless he can secure some sort of deal with the Taliban, it looks as though his days are numbered.

Written by pavanvan

January 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm

UN Opera

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The Times gives us a juicy piece in today’s issue about an American UN official named Peter Galbraith who plotted *gasp* to depose the fraudulent Hamid Karzai and install a more “western-friendly” leader in Afghanistan.  The journalists at the Times treat this matter with the delicacy of threading a needle, for though it is clear Hamid Karzai’s victory was illegitimate, they want to make it clear that ousting a president is very, very bad (unless, of course, the US government does it).

Shortly after making this suggestion, Mr. Galbraith mysteriously left the country and was subsequently fired:

Mr. Galbraith abruptly left the country in early September and was fired weeks later. Mr. Galbraith has said that he believes that he was forced out because he was feuding with his boss, the Norwegian Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Kabul, over how to respond to what he termed wholesale fraud in the Afghan presidential election. He accused Mr. Eide of concealing the degree of fraud benefiting Mr. Karzai.

Galbraith was one of the few voices crying “fraud” after the August elections. He was soon vindicated, after almost one-third of Karzai’s votes turned out to be fakes in a UN audit this October. Galbraith then set upon outlining his plan to remove Karzai, which first took form in a letter to his boss, Eide. After reading the letter, Eide remarked that the plan was:

“unconstitutional, it represented interference of the worst sort, and if pursued it would provoke not only a strong international reaction” but also civil insurrection. It was during this conversation, Mr. Eide said, that Mr. Galbraith proposed taking a leave to the United States, and Mr. Eide accepted.

The whole election was “unconstitutional”, of course, and there can be no worse sort of “interference” than an armed invasion by a global superpower, but the question merits consideration: since Karzai is an illegitimate president, having won no elections, would the US be justified in forcibly replacing him? I have the feeling two wrongs do not make a right.

But the story gets even more complicated. Galbraith has repeatedly accused his boss of having corrupt ties to the Karzai government, and while I don’t think he specifically mentioned it, I’m sure the accusation is that Eide is somehow profiting from the vast heroin fortune that runs through the Karzai family.

The Times only mentions that Eide will be “in Afghanistan until the end of his term”, and says nothing else on the matter. But the policy blogs have been buzzing about Galbraith’s recent accusation (circa only three days ago) that the real reason his boss isn’t running for a second term is that Eide, in fact, was fired, for his corrupt contacts with the Karzai government.

It is interesting that The Times neglects to mention this accusation, and equally interesting that it places most of it’s article’s focus on Galbraith. Though it has not refrained from criticizing the August election (proclaiming it “deeply flawed” though not yet an outright fraud), The Times has displayed itself as a fundamentally pro-Karzai paper. Then it should be clear why they would focus on a failed coup idea (which led to its progenitor’s dismissal) and not to a benefactor of Karzai’s corruption (which also led to a dismissal.)

Meanwhile, this sorry little episode exemplifies, if anything, the staid dysfunction under which the UN operates, the pettery personal politics, and at times, outright corruption.

Written by pavanvan

December 17, 2009 at 10:45 am

Posted in War

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