Quickie: Survivor Kabul, Episode #699

Photo from US Embassy Afghanistan

The top UN official in Afghanistan admits fraud tainted the election. UNAMA head of mission Kai Eide says fraudulent votes were cast but denies claims by former deputy, Peter Galbraith of attempted cover-up.

The Guardian’s Jay Boone reported from Kabul yesterday (11 October 2009 15.45 BST). Excerpt below:

Public and international faith in the election plunged to at an all time low after the fraud allegations and the UN attempted to bolster credibility in the process today by surrounding Eide with leading ambassadors at the stage-managed press event.

Although the US, British, French and German ambassadors joined Eide for his attempt to set the record straight, none of them spoke and UN officials prevented journalists from asking them questions. (me – huh?)

Eide said their presence was a “sign of international support” for his approach. Galbraith had claimed that his former boss failed to stop polling stations from opening in areas that were too dangerous for monitors to visit.

Western diplomats are anxious to shore up support for the poll as the Election Complaints Commission, a watchdog led by non-Afghan staff, prepares to unveil the results of an investigation it ordered into electoral fraud. Around 10% of the 3,498 ballot boxes regarded as suspicious have been inspected by election staff looking for signs of irregularities.

Jean MacKenzie of Global Post writes about the over 400 ballot boxes quarantined by the IEC (Independent Election Commission): “The problem was that the results were being dribbled out in 10 percent increments, and Karzai, while edging ever closer to the magic 50-percent-plus-one threshold, had not yet cleared it. The president was getting impatient, and the IEC was prepared to push him over the top with their next announcement. But discounting the votes from the 400-plus boxes would keep him under 50 percent. So, magically, they “unquarantined” the offending ballots.”

More here on respecting the process in the Afghan elections.

Last Friday, a curious brief statement was posted in the State Department website on US support for UNAMA and Kai Eide:

“The United States fully supports United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and Special Representative Kai Eide in UNAMA’s oversight of and support for Afghanistan’s election processes on behalf of the world community. We are in close cooperation with UNAMA and Ambassador Eide, and believe that the agency and its leadership have shown sound judgment in the conduct of their mission.”

Does that mean that the guy they kicked out had not? — shown sound judgment, that is?

Peter Galbraith, by the way, has just written a new piece appearing in time.com entitled “How the Afghan Election Was Rigged.”

This democracy business is complicated, isn’t it? You spend $300 million on elections in a country eaten raw by corruption, divert significant resources from the counter-insurgency effort to nudge democracy off its feet and all you get is what? This. As good old Mal would say, “Holy Testicle Tuesday!”

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Dissent Channel: USAID/Pakistan Program

090914-A-3715G-187Image by jim.greenhill via Flickr

This Pakistani woman is using a sewing machine
that was provided by USAID
Photo USAID/Pakistan

Ken Dilanian of USA TODAY (October 12, 2009) has a piece on possibly the first, and certainly the first publicly reported dissent on the USAID program in Pakistan. He writes:

“Special representative Richard Holbrooke‘s bid to rapidly shift U.S. aid from American contractors to local Pakistani organizations will “seriously compromise” the effort to stabilize Pakistan, a U.S. diplomat says in a “dissent channel” message to senior State Department officials.”

Pakistan’s government also has complained about the use of U.S. companies to run aid programs, and USA TODAY reported Oct. 2 that Holbrooke has been moving to overhaul the aid regime so that more of the money goes to the Pakistani government and local organizations.

The problem — according to the memo by C. Stuart Callison, an economist with the U.S. Agency for International Development — is that Holbrooke is canceling successful programs run by U.S. contractors and preparing to bypass them by giving large sums to local organizations with shaky financial track records.

Dr. C. Stuart Callison is a Sr. Development Economist in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, Office of Economic Growth.

Read the whole thing here.

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Officially In: Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis to Budapest

Budapest at NightImage by szeke via Flickr

On October 9 President Obama announced his intent to nominate Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis to be the US Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary. Below is the official bio released by the WH:

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis is a Northern California businesswoman, civic leader and philanthropist. As president of AKT Development Corporation, one of California’s largest land development firms, Mrs. Kounalakis has spearheaded major projects that are now home to thousands of families. Passionate about the need to house California’s growing population while working toward a sustainable environment, she has worked tirelessly on public policy issues both locally and nationally.

Mrs. Kounalakis served two terms as a California State World Trade Commissioner, where she engaged in the dynamics of the global economy. She traveled extensively as part of her cross-cultural work with the World Council of Religions for Peace, for which she engaged in the diplomacy of global interfaith dialogue. She is a first generation American and an active member of the national Greek American community. She was the Pan-Arcadian Federation of America’s 2006 person of the year, and was recently awarded the medal of St. Paul, the Greek Orthodox Church of America’s highest honor. Mrs. Kounalakis is a trustee of Robert Redford’s Sundance Preserve and sits on Conservation Fund’s National Forum on Children and Nature.

She earned an MBA from the University of California – Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth.

* * *

Legation Budapest was raised to Embassy status on Nov 28, 1966. Since 1960, 10 of the 15 ambassadors appointed to US Embassy Budapest had been non-career appointees. If confirmed, Ms. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis would replace April H. Foley of New York who was appointed ambassador to Budapest during President G.W. Bush’s second term.

According to OpenSecrets.org Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis has contributed $4,600 to Barack Obama’s campaign. She is actually one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most ardent supporters and raised more than $1 million for her campaign. In 2008, she joined the rest of the Tsakopoulos family and threw her support behind Barack Obama.

Ms. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and her family have endowed several chairs in Hellenic studies at major American universities. In 2006, Georgetown University inaugurated the Eleni and Markos Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Chair in Hellenic Studies, as part of an unprecedented family initiative to promote Hellenic Studies at major American universities. The Sacramento family has also endowed chairs at Columbia University and Stanford University. According to this, a family donation to California State University, Sacramento also created a library of 70,000 written works reflecting ancient and modern Hellenic civilization. Ms. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis’ husband, Markos publishes the journal of politics and policy, The Washington Monthly.

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Officially In: Peter A. Prahar to Kolonia

Kolonia Town looking down from Sokehs RidgeImage via Wikipedia

On October 9 President Obama announced his intent to nominate Peter A. Prahar to be the US Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. Below is the official bio released by the WH:

Peter A. Prahar is member of the Senior Foreign Service now serving as the Transnational Crime Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Prior to this assignment, he was Deputy Director then Director of the Office of Asian, African and European Programs in the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

His previous assignments also include tours in the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Albania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and as desk officer for Rwanda. He served with the CSCE Mission in Kosovo in 1993 and returned to Kosovo in 1998 to assist in establishing a U.S. observer mission. He also served as a linguist in the U.S. Air Force from 1971-1975 with assignments in South Korea and Taiwan.

Mr. Prahar graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Political Science.

* * *

The Office of the U.S. Representative at Kolonia was opened Nov 3, 1986, and was upgraded to an Embassy Sep 20, 1989. If confirmed, Mr. Prahar would succeed career diplomat Miriam K.Hughes, the seventh U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. Two non-career ambassadors were previously appointed to this position.

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Horn v. Huddle: Settlement Reached?

The Blog of Legal Times has an October 1 update on the Horn v. Huddle case:

A tentative settlement has been reached in a long-running suit that alleges a former intelligence agent and a State Department official unlawfully eavesdropped on a DEA agent, potentially bringing the state secrets case to an abrupt close and sparing the Justice Department a loss on appeal.

Justice lawyers filed notices yesterday evening about the proposed settlement. The notices were filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the case is pending, and in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where the case was filed in 1994. The agreement was reached through the assistance of the D.C. Circuit’s appellate mediation program. The lawyers asked for a 30-day hold on the proceedings in both courts.
[T]he potential for an adverse appellate ruling against Justice could vanish if the plaintiff, Richard Horn, settles with defendants Arthur Brown and Franklin Huddle Jr. Justice is paying private lawyers to represent Brown, a former CIA agent, and Huddle, a former State Department official.

Read the whole thing here.

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