Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has removed Washington's top diplomat at the UN mission in Afghanistan following a row over the level of transparency in the recent presidential election.
The departure of Peter Galbraith is seen as a victory for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had objected to the American's bid to be more outspoken about the alleged fraud in the Aug. 20 poll.
Mr. Ban's office said the UN chief made the decision "in the best interest of the mission."
I first saw this reported at the Times two weeks ago. That article, which has more detail than today's National Post piece, reported that Galbraith wanted to take a much tougher stand regarding questionable election results and one that would have assured a run-off election rather than allowing Karzai to declare victory based on the results of the initial voting. After what sounded like a pretty heated dispute with his superior, Galbraith left Afghanistan for what was officially classified as a three week "mission to New York" but was speculated to indicate that he'd been relieved of duty. Today's report makes the latter official and suggests that the powers that be are going to try and downplay the obvious election fraud and prop Karzai up.
Since Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall military commander of the mission in Afghanistan, wants to run a by-the-book counter-insurgency operation it's difficult to see how this development is in the best interest of anyone with the possible exception of Karzai and his cronies who may get to benefit from his position for just a bit longer. Running COIN by the book means having a credible and legitimate local partner and it's becoming increasingly obvious that Karzai is anything but credible and legitimate. His own constituents think his government is a joke and so does the UN staff on the ground (that Times story indicates that a lot of the senior staff supported Galbraith).
Even if one were to believe that McChrystal's ambitious plan had a reasonable hope of success, dealing with questions about the legitimacy of the Afghan government by publicly sending the questioners packing doesn't further the mission, it sabotages it.