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UN Ignores Afghanistan's Election Concerns

1:26 PM, Sep 16, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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All is not well at the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan as the top diplomats battle over handling the result of the country's highly contested presidential election. The Times Online reported that the top UN representative kicked out a senior American aide after he took a tough stand on the treatment of the election results.

America's top diplomat at the United Nations mission in Afghanistan has been ordered out of the country after a row with his boss over how to respond to last month's fraud-riddled presidential elections, it has been alleged.

The alleged quarrel is threatening to spark a mutiny within the UN mission. At least a dozen senior staff are backing the American, Peter Galbraith, in the dispute with his Norwegian superior, Kai Eide.

Mr Galbraith, a close friend of the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, left for Boston on Sunday after a heated meeting with Afghan election officials. His "pointed" questions to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) were evidence of a much tougher line towards the Afghan authorities than the "softly-softly" approach of Mr Eide, who heads the UN mission to Kabul.

"The relationship between Kai and Peter has completely broken down," said a diplomat in Kabul. "Peter has left the country. The official line is that he's on a three-week mission to New York. But Kai just turned round to Peter and said, ‘I want you out'."

The short of it is that Galbraith wants a recount that will essentially ensure President Karzai won't win the election with a majority, thus forcing a second round of voting. Eide wants to defer to Karzai, essentially conceding that he is going to win and helping to smooth over future interactions. The problem is that many Afghans view the election as illegitimate, and by default, the UN and NATO will be viewed as backing an illegitimate government. This is the worst case scenario, as foreign forces are granted legitimacy to operate from the host government. If the UN and NATO are seen as backing an illegitimate government, the real winners here will be the Taliban.