Afghanistan’s angry Norwegian bites back

By Sean Maguire
October 11, 2009

It is both fascinating and horrifying to overhear a bad argument between two old friends. The drama is compelling but you shudder at the pain of each wounding criticism.

I doubt Kai Eide, the U.N.’s top man in Afghanistan, will be holidaying again with his former deputy, Peter Galbraith, after a lacerating row between them over electoral fraud. Once the best of friends, the two have fallen out spectacularly over what should have been done to prevent the ballot stuffing, vote rigging and intrigue that Western powers now publicly admit badly marred the August 20 poll in Afghanistan. Were the stakes not so high, the fight could be brushed off as the consequence of clashing egos and the vagaries of human nature. But the dispute has cast doubt on whether any outcome of the vote can be considered legitimate. A second round may still happen, depending on a recount of suspect votes likely to conclude in a few days. On current trends President Hamid Karzai will emerge the winner, but will look like spoiled goods in the eyes of many in the Obama administration. Obama needs a credible political partner in Kabul to help him sell to Americans the cost in blood and treasure of whatever approach he eventually decides to take on continuing the counter-insurgency fight in Afghanistan.

Galbraith had been making the public running in the argument, charging that his efforts to prevent fraud were blocked and that he was muzzled by Eide, a veteran Norwegian diplomat. When he refused to keep quiet, says Galbraith, he was sacked. Eide’s actions or inactions have helped give the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting Western forces, Galbraith has told anyone who would listen, including the op-ed pages of major American newspapers.

When Eide finally bit back in public he lined up a silent chorus of Western ambassadors to sit on a podium beside him in Kabul to demonstrate the solid support of ‘the international community.’ (The British, French and U.S. ambassadors seated beside Eide did not take questions, despite one being tossed deliberately at Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. envoy). The mild-mannered Norwegian roused himself into indignant righteousness and, without ever mentioning Galbraith by name, fought back against the charges of having winked at massive fraud by agents of Karzai and castigated his former deputy for discourteously breaching confidences.

From my chair in the room it seemed Eide was most hurt by what he said was Galbraith’s use against him of remarks made while the former US diplomat was a guest in his house for over two months. “My view is that private discussions around the dinner table should remain private.”

The allegations “have been an attack on my integrity,” said Eide. “It’s not dignifed, not fair and not true,” he said, adding in a resigned finale, “but that’s the way it is.”

While watching the Eide/Galbraith friendship dissolve in such a public train wreck I wondered how Afghans were reacting to the squabble. I’m back in Kabul after a year’s absence. The distance, alienation and distrust between Afghans and their foreign helpmates that I saw last October, and which the Taliban promotes, sustains and thrives upon, has not much eased and will not have been helped by this undignified row.

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Who is the West, in particular, the United States fooling? American public, of course, who are removed, distant, and uninterested in their own election, let alone the Afghan election. To the American Administration it does not matter who they have as a puppet in Afghanistan, as long as it were a new face to legitimize that the American effort to bring DEMOCRACY to Afghanistan bear fruit. As far as who runs the show, (ex. arrest people, put them in jails, establish air bases, launch an aggressive attack on a certain region, drop bombs, fly helicopter gunships and F15s, who to invite to the White House for secret chastising, etc.) it is the United States.

Besides, the United States does not want Karzai, because when Obama did not show an interest in him after his inauguration, Karzai did the same. Furthermore, Karzai upped the anti and opened up dialogue with the Cold War era American staunched enemy, Russia. He even went to Russia and later invited many Russian civilian consultants to Kabul.

American diplomacy and propaganda, contrary to their intelligence branch has grown very naive and ineffective. They tend to fool themselves in believing that the rest of the world believes what America want them to believe. Illiterate Venders on street corners have been politically awakened by the games Super Powers, Israel included, have been playing for so long.

Super Powers are running out of new games, at the mean time, they cant give up the old favorite games. So there you have it. The West is in a dilemma. No one can they fool by these games of bringing democracy, holding election, women’s (excluding men) right and similar superficial changes, while causing destruction in their lands with construction funds flowing the opposite direction.

[...] for his attacks on the Norwegian UN diplomat in Afghanistan, Kai Eide. It has now done so, on the basis of what a Norwegian newspaper is claiming to be a [...]

The world organizations that monitor elections have to be given more power to affect things here and over there to have better elections.

It’s funny how this election fraud hasn’t received much attention or comment from those who frenzied over Iran’s disputed election. This time we’ve even admitted the fraud..
Oh that’s right it’s a US installed government!
Well I guess that’s all right then, carry on no need for justice or prosecution here..
No wonder Afghanistan now supplies 90% of the worlds heroin, it seems everyone is too busy looking the other way.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive