What I Saw at the Afghan Election

What I Saw at the Afghan Election

Before firing me last week from my post as his deputy special representative in Afghanistan, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon conveyed one last instruction: Do not talk to the press. In effect, I was being told to remain a team player after being thrown off the team. Nonetheless, I agreed.

As my differences with my boss, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, had already been well publicized (through no fault of either of us), I asked only that the statement announcing my dismissal reflect the real reasons. Alain LeRoy, the head of U.N. peacekeeping and my immediate superior in New York, proposed that the United Nations say I was being recalled over a "disagreement as to how the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) would respond to electoral fraud." Although this was not entirely accurate -- the dispute was really about whether the U.N. mission would respond to the massive electoral fraud -- I agreed.

Instead, the United Nations announced my recall as occurring "in the best interests of the mission," and U.N. press officials told reporters on background that my firing was necessitated by a "personality clash" with Eide, a friend of 15 years who had introduced me to my future wife.

I might have tolerated even this last act of dishonesty in a dispute dating back many months if the stakes were not so high. For weeks, Eide had been denying or playing down the fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election, telling me he was concerned that even discussing the fraud might inflame tensions in the country. But in my view, the fraud was a fact that the United Nations had to acknowledge or risk losing its credibility with the many Afghans who did not support President Hamid Karzai.

I also felt loyal to my U.N. colleagues who worked in a dangerous environment to help Afghans hold honest elections -- at least five of whom have now told me they are leaving jobs they love in disgust over the events leading to my firing.

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