In 2009, on this day the hotly disputed Afghan election entered a new phase of bitter recrimination when talks between Presidents Hamid Karzai and John Kerry broke down without agreement.
Locking HornsBoth Kerry, and his principal aide, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Kai Eide had determined that a run-off election was absolutely necessary to restore Karzai's broken authority with the Afghan people. Tense days of diplomatic arm-twisting featured meals which included "gallons of tea" and endless platters of lamb. But Karzai was stalling, a strategy that had been doomed to failure ever since Peter Galbraith blew the whistle on October 5th. Subsequently, Galbraith had been fired from his senior United Nations post for quarrelling with his superiors over claims he was told to keep quiet about fraud during the Afghan election.
Now both Heads of State were locked on the horns of a dilemma; Kerry could no longer support Karzai in the International Community and Karzai feared for his life should he lose office. It was a lose-lose situation of the worst kind that only had one precedent in recent history.
Misunderstanding from Eide that Karzai was close to agreement on a November run-off, Kerry rushed back from a brief visit across the border to Pakistan to "close the deal". Both Presidents went for a long walk on the Presidential Palace grounds, but Eide had it wrong, Karzai had become "shaky" and was already suffering "buyer's remorse".
During the extended stroll Kerry opened up to Karzai, telling him about his own difficult decision to challenge the vote count in Ohio on election night in 2004. There were allegations of voting irregularities in favour of incumbent president George W. Bush, and Kerry told Karzai he knew he would hold up a final outcome for weeks by filing a challenge. Kerry's hypocrisy induced an incandescent level of fury in Karzai and the talks were broken off without agreement. Kerry returned to Washington to re-evaluate options for putting the Afghan President under further pressure, a catastrophic strategem that would backfire disasterously before the year-end.