Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 13:02 UK

'Victim' of UN Afghan power struggle

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Jan 23, 2007 file photo of Peter Galbraith, deputy special representative for Afghanistan, speaking to the parliament
Mr Galbraith is a well connected career diplomat

Peter Galbraith, the senior UN official in Afghanistan who has been removed from his post following a row about the country's presidential election, is a well connected and influential diplomat.

He counts former US President Bill Clinton and the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, as his friends. A former US diplomat, he has been second in command of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

Yet despite his connections, Mr Galbraith appears to be the loser in a power struggle with his boss in Afghanistan, UN special envoy Kai Eide.

The Harvard and Oxford University educated Mr Galbraith was at loggerheads with Mr Eide over how to handle voting irregularities in last month's elections.

Mr Galbraith took an aggressive and outspoken line towards fraud in the 20 August vote, whereas his Norwegian counterpart favoured quietly lobbying behind the scenes.

The two men quarrelled over the issue, reportedly disagreeing over the extent to which vote recounts were necessary. The dispute led to Mr Galbraith's temporary departure from Kabul earlier this month because of differences over "style".

Mr Eide acknowledged there had been a row but told the BBC two weeks ago it had been resolved and insisted Mr Galbraith was due to return to Kabul.

"He's a valuable deputy and I do hope that we can re-establish a good team and work together," Mr Eide said.

He added it was important to "avoid any impression that there is foreign interference" in Afghanistan's election.

Former ambassador

The two men initially insisted they were old friends - they served together in the Balkans - and Mr Eide is even reported to have introduced Mr Galbraith to the Norwegian anthropologist who became his wife.

But Mr Eide is said to have lobbied behind the scenes to stop Mr Galbraith's appointment as his deputy in March.

There is perhaps no coincidence between reports emanating from Washington and London over the weekend that they would recognise President Karzai as the winner of the vote and news of Mr Galbraith's permanent departure.

Such a decision would make Mr Galbraith's position untenable given his trenchant criticisms of the way the vote has been handled.

What Mr Galbraith does now is unclear.

As a professional staff member for the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1979 to 1993, he is an expert on Iraq and the Kurdistan question and has written books and academic papers on the subject.

In 1993 he was appointed by President Clinton as the first US ambassador to Croatia and later served with the UN in East Timor.

He has indicated more recently that he is interested in a political career - there was speculation last year that he might run for the governorship of Vermont.

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