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Galbraith on Afghanistan

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January 14, 2010

Fifteen-hundred Vermonters will touch down in Afghanistan in several weeks. To get a sense of what they will face, we spoke with a Vermonter who is also a diplomatic star who served as a top member of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith of Townshend.

Galbraith was fired from his UN post for speaking out about election fraud there. The U.S. is now relying on the Karzai government as the president sends 30,000 more troops.

Galbraith says the fundamental problem is that in order for the president's counter-insurgency strategy to work, he must have a credible local partner. U.S. troops can clear out the Taliban, but an Afghan army, police force and government must then take over. Galbraith says the current government would be hard to make a credible partner.

Galbraith says the corruption in Afghanistan will make it harder for the Vermont troops to accomplish their mission. The Vermont troops are going to the eastern part of the country. Galbraith says unfortunately, the most dangerous parts of the country are the east and the south. It's mountainous, treacherous, and the Taliban are getting support from across the border in Pakistan.

Galbraith has faced a lot of controversy of his own lately. The UN firing and revelations that he stood to make millions of dollars from oil fields in Kurdistan-- some said that was a conflict of interest given his work in that region. But he does not think the controversy has hurt your ability to do diplomatic work. Galbraith says he was a private citizen at the time, he wasn't doing any official work at all in Kurdistan, and the deals he put together benefitted both the shareholders and the government of Kurdistan.

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