Head of U.N. Mission Accused of Bias in Afghan Election

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, October 4, 2009

KABUL, Oct. 3 -- The main challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai sharply criticized the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan on Saturday, saying he is biased toward Karzai and has worked against uncovering the full extent of fraud in last month's still-unresolved presidential election.

During a news conference at his house, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah stopped short of calling for the removal of Kai Eide. But he said Eide's dispute with his deputy -- U.S. diplomat Peter W. Galbraith, who was fired last week -- has raised "serious questions" about Eide's impartiality and "seriously damaged the U.N.'s credibility in Afghanistan."

"The rule of law prevails or fraud will govern Afghanistan for another five years, which is a recipe for disaster," Abdullah said.

The dispute over fraud escalated as a recount of selected ballots continued to determine whether Karzai will maintain his majority and win, or whether he will face Abdullah in a second-round runoff. U.S. soldiers also came under fresh attack; at least five servicemen, including two killed by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform, died over the past day.

Abdullah cited allegations by Galbraith, the top U.S. diplomat with the United Nations in Afghanistan, that Eide had discouraged his staff members from discussing the allegations of fraud, that low-turnout data was concealed and that he was biased in favor of Karzai.

Eide has repeatedly denied the allegations and has insisted that he and the rest of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have been impartial in the Aug. 20 election.

"UNAMA has insisted on slavish, rigorous adherence to the electoral processes. Our neutrality has been and will be paramount at all stages," said Dan McNorton, a U.N. spokesman in Kabul. "UNAMA has not, does not and will not turn a blind eye to fraud."

A string of bombings and shootings, meanwhile, killed five Americans in Afghanistan on Friday, the U.S. military said Saturday. Three died in two bombings in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency has become more virulent.

Two others were killed in eastern Afghanistan in what the military called a "hostile attack." The governor of Wardak province, Halim Fedai, said an Afghan policeman fatally shot two U.S. soldiers and wounded two while they were on patrol in the province Friday night. A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that two soldiers were shot by a man in an Afghan police uniform.

A lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the soldiers were shot while taking a rest from the patrol. Fedai said his office has begun an investigation.

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