The United Nations fired its No. 2 official in Afghanistan on Wednesday after the diplomat, Peter W. Galbraith, wrote a scathing letter accusing the head of the mission here of concealing election fraud that benefited the campaign of the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai.
The head of the mission, Kai Eide, angrily denied the accusation, and senior United Nations officials and diplomats said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had decided to recall Mr. Galbraith because of irreconcilable differences with Mr. Eide, who is Norwegian.
“He reaffirms his full support for his special representative, Kai Eide,” said a terse statement attributed to Mr. Ban’s spokesman. The day before, Mr. Ban also expressed confidence in Mr. Galbraith in a news conference at the United Nations headquarters.
But the letter to Mr. Ban from Mr. Galbraith, the highest-ranking American official working for the United Nations in Afghanistan, made clear the depth of the animosity between Mr. Galbraith and Mr. Eide and illustrated the profound concerns that remain among some international observers that the presidential election was hopelessly undermined by fraud. [continued…]
The president, vice president and an array of cabinet secretaries, intelligence chiefs, generals, diplomats and advisers gathered in a windowless basement room of the White House for three hours on Wednesday to chart a new course in Afghanistan.
The one thing everyone could agree on: None of the choices is easy.
Just six months after President Obama adopted what he called a “stronger, smarter and comprehensive strategy” for Afghanistan and Pakistan, he is back at the same table starting from scratch. The choices available to him are both disparate and not particularly palatable. [continued…]
With much of his party largely opposed to expanding military operations in Afghanistan, President Obama could be forced into the awkward political position of turning to congressional Republicans for support if he follows the recommendations of the commanding U.S. general there.
Congressional Democrats have begun promoting a compromise package of additional resources for Afghanistan that would emphasize training for Afghan security forces but deny Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal the additional combat troops he has indicated he needs to regain the initiative against the Taliban insurgency. The emerging Democratic consensus is likely to constrain the president as he considers how best to proceed with an increasingly unpopular war.
On Wednesday, Obama chaired a three-hour discussion on Afghanistan with Cabinet members and senior officials at the White House. The meeting was largely a reassessment of the past eight years of American involvement in the region, with the president repeatedly probing his military and civilian advisers to justify their assumptions, according to one participant. This source said there was a recognition that the decision facing Obama is one of the most critical of his presidency. [continued…]