WASHINGTON -- Hamid Karzai upped the ante today in his war of wills with Western governments over allegations of massive election fraud in last summer’s presidential election, turning the tables on those who have accused his supporters of engineering the fraud.
Yesterday Karzai acknowledged that rigging had been widespread but claimed it was perpetrated by the United Nations, including former deputy head of mission Peter Galbraith, who was recalled after he complained publicly about the fraud. Karzai also singled out Philippe Morillon, head of the EU election observation mission to Afghanistan, as well as unnamed foreign embassies, according to BBC.
“Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud,” Karzai told his staff, BBC reported.
In a telephone interview from his home in Vermont, Galbraith said that the remarks were proof that Karzai is “disconnected from reality,” and that a sign that the US mission in Afghanistan is headed for failure.
“It is quite well known that the UN fired me for trying to prevent the fraud, so for Karzai to accuse me of organizing it is preposterous,” Galbraith said. “First, Karzai admitted that his reelection was the result of massive fraud. I think that is an important admission which he had not made before. But in terms of his state of mind, his antipathy towards the United States, it’s a bit unhinged.”
Karzai’s remarks come days after President Obama met with him for 25 minutes in Kabul during his first visit there since taking office.
It also comes in the midst of a dispute with Afghanistan’s parliament which has tried to block Karzai’s attempt to ban non-Afghans from serving on a UN-backed elections commission that helped expose fraud in last year’s election. Karzai’s attempts to take control of the commission, which had allowed the UN to pick three of its five members, have been seen as a disturbing power play in Washington.
But yesterday, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley did not address the unlikely charges by Karzai directly, but called on Karzai to take credible measures to curb corruption and show good governance.
“Karzai has to step forward, lead his government, you know, in terms of convincing the international community and the Afghan people that they are taking measurable steps to reduce corruption,” he said. “We’re cognizant of the fact that the -- the Afghan parliament has stepped up and questioned a decision by President Karzai in terms of who will appoint how many individuals to the independent electoral commission. This is very important, you know, to Afghanistan’s future.”
Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s former foreign minister, who challenged Karzai in the last election, is set to have a press conference on Friday in Kabul.
Galbraith, who lost his job after pushing for more forceful action by the UN against the fraud, said Karzai’s remarks vindicate his position at the time.
“We are allied with an ineffective, corrupt, Afghan government whose president is in office by fraud and whose response to the message that he got from the United States to clean up his act is to put out the most preposterous allegations about fraud from which he benefited and which was carried out by his appointees,” he said. “This is our ally. The US project in Afghanistan rests on Karzai. That’s why I was so concerned.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.