Ousted: the US diplomat who wanted inquiry into Afghan vote

Peter Galbraith recalled by United Nations after row over disputed election

The senior American official at the United Nations mission in Afghanistan has been ousted after clashing with his superior over the recent fraud-ridden election. The angry row only underlines the acute difficulties the US and its allies face as they struggle to chart a way forward in the eight-year conflict.

Yesterday the UN confirmed that Peter Galbraith, the organisation's deputy special representative for Afghanistan, was being recalled by Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general – the culmination of a dispute that had long made it inconceivable that Mr Galbraith could ever return to his post.

As No 2 in the mission, Mr Galbraith was in charge of the UN's supervision of the 20 August election which returned President Hamid Karzai to power. But his insistence on a full investigation into the alleged massive ballot stuffing that marred the vote brought him into head-on conflict with his boss Kai Eide, head of the UN mission in Kabul, who favours a more cautious, less confrontational approach. It also made him virtually persona non grata with the Karzai government.

The clash, of both style and substance, split the UN mission. Neither Mr Eide nor Mr Galbraith bothered to conceal their differences. "The disagreement has been about how active the UN should be in promoting the goal [of free and fair elections]," Mr Galbraith acknowledged in a radio interview last week when asked about the turmoil. "Not surprisingly there are strong feelings within the mission."

The row became public last month, when Mr Galbraith returned to the US. His temporary absence was made permanent yesterday with a terse statement that he had been dismissed by the secretary general, who retained his "full support" for Mr Eide.

The announcement represents a victory not just for Mr Eide, a career Norwegian diplomat who has been the chief UN representative in Kabul since March 2008, but also for Mr Karzai. It proves once more that whatever the dissatisfaction of the US and its allies with the Afghan leader's performance, his removal is all but impossible.

Significantly, the removal of Mr Galbraith comes just days after the US and other Nato countries agreed to accept that Mr Karzai would be President for the next five years – to all intents and purposes burying the prospect of the run-off vote that would have been required had he failed to secure an outright majority. As it is, the latest tally gives the President 54 per cent, far ahead of his closest rival, the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

The decision, taken on the sidelines of last week's UN General Assembly, signalled that Washington and its partners wanted to put the contested election behind them, in order to focus on the war. With the harsh Afghan winter approaching, any run-off would almost certainly have to wait until spring, when it might interfere with renewed military operations against the Taliban.

Outspoken and deeply committed to human rights, the 58-year old Mr Galbraith – a son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith – has decades of experience of global hot spots.

Given America's leadership of the coalition waging the Afghan war, it is scarcely imaginable that his dismissal by Mr Ban was not approved by the Obama administration. His departure casts another shadow over the crucial discussions under way here over future strategy in the war – in essence a choice between stepping up the war on the ground by injecting up to 40,000 more US troops, or scaling back operations to focus on al-Qa'ida.

* An Afghan girl died after a box of information leaflets – dropped by a British military plane – landed on top of her, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday. The MoD is investigating the incident which occurred three months ago in a rural area of Helmand.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all