Kabul: The senior American diplomat in the UN mission to Afghanistan has left the country after an argument with his European boss over how to deal with election fraud, officials said on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s 20 August election has been overshadowed by allegations of widespread vote-rigging and the final results are likely to be delayed another two to three weeks, Western and diplomatic officials said.
Peter Galbraith, deputy to UN special envoy Kai Eide, left Kabul on Monday, but is expected to return to Afghanistan soon, a UN spokesman said, requesting anonymity.
Confirming there had been a difference of opinion between Galbraith, an American, and Eide, a Norwegian, the spokesman said: “In any hotly contested election there are bound to be differences of opinion.
“But the UNAMA (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) leadership remains committed to taking action on fraud wherever it is detected so that Afghanistan’s voters can have faith in the final outcome,” he said.
Galbraith was in New York where he would be joined by Eide to brief the UN Security Council later this month, the UN spokesman said, adding: “We expect him (Galbraith) to return to Afghanistan soon afterward.”
A Western consultant in Kabul said the relationship between the two men had “always been a bit tense” as Galbraith was more “hands-on” than Eide, described as preferring to maintain the status quo.
But, he said: “I don’t think it is broader than Peter and Kai, it’s not indicative of a systemic faultline between the UN and the US. But there are different approaches.”
Those differences came to a head during a meeting with Afghan election officials to discuss how to deal with fraud allegations that have slowed the release of results and cast a shadow over the credibility of the ballot—and the legitimacy of the winner.
President Hamid Karzai leads with 54.3% of polling stations counted so far, ahead of his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah on 28.1%.