A controversial former United Nations official who's been engaged in a public spat with Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan is doomed in part because Karzai is a "weirdo."
Peter Galbraith was fired from his job as second-in-command of the UN mission in Kabul after he declared that Karzai's reelection last fall was the result of electoral fraud.
Karzai had long denied that the elections were tainted, until unexpectedly announcing last month that there had indeed been "massive fraud", just not by him.
"That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that. That fraud was done by Galbraith," Karzai said. A few days later, Karzai threatened to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform.
Galbraith's latest comment came at a forum on the Afghan war sponsored by Economists for Peace and Security and the New America Foundation. In a stark contrast with the confident words coming from the White House and the Pentagon, Monday's speakers were uniformly pessimistic about the U.S. presence, which they called "unnecessary and counter-productive."
"I see Afghanistan as something that basically saps and traps American power, not as something that builds American power," said Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation.
Former CIA analyst Paul Pillar said the war is making enemies of the Afghan people and not making Americans safer. He warned of the tendency "to think of sunken costs as investments."
Former national security staffer Hillary Mann Leverett said the U.S. really has no option but to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
And former congressman Thomas H. Andrews called for an independent commission to come up with alternatives for Afghanistan -- and give President Obama political cover to reverse course.
Galbraith argued that "whether you think Afghanistan is important or not, whatever view you have of what we might be obligated to do there morally or politically, if the war cannot be won, if it is unwinnable... then there is no point in committing valuable resources."
To successfully counter an insurgency, "you need a credible Afghan partner," Galbraith said. "And so the question is: Do we have a credible Afghan partner, and if we don't, is there any chance that we could end up with a credible Afghan partner?"
Galbraith said Karzai's eight-year tenure has been "characterized by ineffectiveness and corruption." And, he said: "I ask you, what makes anybody think that the next five years are going to be any different?"
Galbraith described Karzai's recent statements and concluded: "I don't know how to put this diplomatically, so I won't. Karzai's a weirdo... Hamid Karzai, ineffective, corrupt, illegitimate and weird, is not a credible Afghan partner."
Obama, for his part, hosted Karzai at the White House last week. Obama said he "welcomed President Karzai's commitment to take additional steps that can improve the lives of the Afghan people in concrete ways, especially with regard to the rule of law, agricultural production, economic growth, and the delivery of basic services."
Galbraith is no stranger to controversy. Not long after he was fired by the UN, the
New York Times published a story suggesting that his lucrative ties to a Norwegian company doing business with the Kurdish regional government in Iraq created a conflict of interest with his role as influential diplomat.