US, UNAMA meddling in polls confirmed
Former US defence secretary Robert Gates in his memoir has harshly criticised the move as a "clumsy and failed putsch" that did significant damage to the US-Afghan relationship.
The central players in the bid to unseat Karzai, according to Gates, were Richard Holbrooke, then US special representative, and Karl Eikenberry, ex-ambassador to Kabul.
"Holbrooke was doing his best to bring about the defeat of Karzai," Gates writes. "What he wanted was to have enough credible candidates running to deny Karzai a majority in the election, thus forcing a run-off in which he could be defeated."
According to Gates, the two men held highly publicised meetings with Karzai's opponents and attended their rallies.
Gates writes that Karzai became aware of the US efforts and cut deals with the country's warlords to win their support in the vote. The effort to unseat Karzai also failed - he didn't win an outright majority, but he prevailed in the second round of voting.
Incumbent Transport Minister Daud Ali Najafi, who was the IEC secretary in 2009, confirmed Gates’ claims at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday.
He said Holbrooke and Peter Galbraith, ex-deputy chief for UNAMA, had been massively involved in meddling in the 2009 elections.
“They would highly interfere in our affairs. I am witness to their interferences,” said Najafi, who claimed Holbrooke invited him and a number of civil society activists to a meeting at the US Embassy few days ahead of the elections.
“Holbrooke said he is going to meet Karzai, who does not like me, an hour later,” the minister said, claiming he had advised the US envoy not to use the expression of like or dislike against candidates.
The former IEC secretary alleged the US Embassy through a letter had asked them to pave the ground in provinces for electioneering of Sarwar Ahmadzai and few more candidates.
A day before the announcement of preliminary election results, Najafi said Galbraith phoned him and recommended not to announce the results.
He said Galbraith also criticised the sacking of an election official in western Herat province and warned if they went head with announcing the election results “you will face problems and dig your grave with own hands.”
He said the two men --- Holbrooke and Peter Galbraith --- wanted to ensure Karzai lost the elections.
As a result, he said, the first round election results were postponed and once again when they were to announce the results a few days later at the Intercontinental Hotel, UNAMA officials suspended the Internet and electricity.
After hectic efforts, Najafi said they had been able to restore the internet and the sound system to announce the results.
To a question why the elections did not go to the second round, Najafi said the question should be asked from Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up in the 2009 elections.
He said a day before the results were announced, Abdullah had a meeting with foreigners and a day after the meeting he announced quitting the race.
Approached for comments, US Embassy spokesperson Robert Hilton said: “That is not correct. Our interest was in a stable Afghanistan, with credible democratic elections – not in helping any candidate win or lose."
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