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Peter W. Galbraith

In office
June 28, 1993 – January 3, 1998
President Bill Clinton
Succeeded by William Dale Montgomery

Born 31 December 1950 (1950-12-31) (age 59)
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anne O'Leary,divorced;
Tone Bringa
Relations John Kenneth Galbraith, father; James K. Galbraith, brother
Children three
Alma mater Harvard University (A.B.)
Oxford University(M.A.)
Georgetown University (J.D.)
Profession diplomat, public servant, professor, writer

Peter Woodard Galbraith (born December 31, 1950) is an author, academic, commentator, policy adviser and former United States diplomat. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he helped uncover Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds. From 1993 to 1998, he served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, where he was co-mediator and principal architect of the 1995 Erdut Agreement that ended the war in that country. From 2003 onwards, Galbraith acted as an adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. As an author and commentator, he argued that Iraq has broken up and that the US occupation authorities should not try to build a strong central government over Kurdish objections. In 2009, Galbraith was appointed United Nations' Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan where he contributed to exposing the massive fraud that took place in the 2009 Afghanistan Presidential Elections.


Personal life and education

Peter Galbraith is the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the leading economists of the 20th century, and Catherine (Kitty) Merriam Atwater and the brother of economist James K. Galbraith. After attending the Commonwealth School, he earned an A.B. degree from Harvard College, an M.A. from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. He is married to Tone Bringa, a Norwegian social anthropologist. They have two children together and live in Vermont.

Galbraith was a good friend of the twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, dating back to their student days at Harvard and Oxford Universities, and was instrumental in securing Bhutto's release from prison in Pakistan for a medical treatment abroad during the military dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.



U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Galbraith was a professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1979 to 1993. During that time, he published a number of reports about Iraq and took a special interest in the Kurdish regions of Iraq. In 1987, he uncovered Saddam Hussein's systematic destruction of Kurdish villages and a year later wrote the "Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988" which would have imposed comprehensive sanctions on Iraq because of the gassing of the Kurds. The bill unanimously passed the Senate but was opposed by the Reagan Administration as "premature" and did not become law. During the 1991 Kurdish uprising, Galbraith traveled throughout rebel-held northern Iraq, narrowly escaping across the Tigris as Iraqi forces recaptured the area. His written and televised accounts provided early warning of the catastrophe overtaking the civilian population and contributed to the decision to create a safe haven in northern Iraq. In 1992, Galbraith brought out of northern Iraq 14 tons of captured Iraqi secret police documents detailing the atrocities that had been committed against the Kurds. Galbraith’s work in Iraqi Kurdistan is chronicled in Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002), and was the subject of a 1992 ABC Nightline documentary.

Ambassador to Croatia

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Galbraith as the first United States Ambassador to Croatia. Galbraith was actively involved in the Croatia and Bosnia peace processes. He was co-mediator and principal architect of the 1995 Erdut Agreement that ended the war in Croatia by providing for peaceful reintegration of Serb-held Eastern Slavonia into Croatia. From 1996 to 1998, Galbraith served as de facto Chairman of the international commission charged with monitoring implementation of the Erdut Agreement. Galbraith helped devise and implement the strategy that ended the 1993-94 Muslim-Croat War and participated in the negotiation of the Washington Agreement that established the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was co-chairman of the Croatia peace process (“the Z-4 process”) that produced several agreements between the Croatian government and rebel Serbs.

During the war years, Galbraith was responsible for U.S. humanitarian programs in the former Yugoslavia and for U.S. relations with the UNPROFOR mission headquartered in Zagreb. Ambassador Galbraith’s diplomatic interventions facilitated the flow of humanitarian assistance to Bosnia and secured the 1993 release of more than 5,000 prisoners of war held in inhumane conditions by Bosnian Croat forces.

East Timor

From January 2000 to August 2001, Galbraith was Director for Political, Constitutional and Electoral Affairs for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). He also served as Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea in the First Transitional Government of East Timor. In these roles, he designed the territory’s first interim government and the process to write East Timor’s permanent constitution. During his tenure, Galbraith conducted successful negotiations with Australia to produce a new treaty governing the exploitation of oil and gas in the Timor Sea. The resulting Timor Sea Treaty will double the GNP of East Timor, and is believed to be the first time the United Nations has a negotiated a bilateral treaty on behalf of a state. He also led the UNTAET/East Timor negotiating team during eighteen months of negotiations with Indonesia aimed at normalizing relations and resolving issues arising from the end of the Indonesian occupation.

Involvement in Iraq's constitutional process

From 2003 to 2005, Iraq was involved in a number of negotiations to draft an interim and then a permanent constitution. In that context, Galbraith advised both the KDP and the PUK, the two main Kurdish parties of Iraq, particularly with a view to encouraging the emergence of a strongly decentralised state. In his book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, which was published in 2006, Galbraith wrote on page 166 that "in May 2003, I realised that the Kurdish leaders had a conceptual problem in planning for a federal Iraq. They were thinking in terms of devolution of power – meaning that Baghdad grants them rights. I urged that the equation be reversed. In a memo I sent Barham [Salih] and Nechirvan [Barzani] in August, I drew a distinction between the previous autonomy proposals and federalism: '[...] The Constitution should state that the Constitution of Kurdistan, and laws made pursuant to the Constitution, is the supreme law of Kurdistan. Any conflict between laws of Kurdistan and the laws of or Constitution of Iraq shall be decided in favor of the former.'" Galbraith wrote that his ideas on federalism "eventually became the basis of Kurdistan's proposals for an Iraq constitution".

Galbraith favors the independence, legal or de facto, of the northern region of Iraq known as Iraqi Kurdistan. In the End of Iraq, Galbraith advocates acceptance of a "partition" of Iraq into three parts (Kurd, Shiite Arab, and Sunni Arab) as part of a new U.S. "strategy based on the reality of Iraq", and argues that the U.S.'s "main error" in Iraq has been its attempt to maintain Iraq as a single entity.[1]

Business Activities

After leaving the US government in 2003, Galbraith set up a consulting firm that provided negotiating and other services to governmental and corporate clients. In this capacity, he served as East Timor's negotiator regarding the gas prone Sunrise field in Timor Sea and assisted the Government of Zambia develop negotiating strategies related to minerals. He had several corporate clients in Iraqi Kurdistan, including DNO, a Norwegian oil company which is currently engaged in exploring oil reserves in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He represented the company on a joint commission with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil in Baghdad. Some Iraqi Arabs complained that, because of his business interests, he should not have advised the Kurds on constitutional issues, even though the Kurds, who asked for his advice, saw no conflict of interest. Abdul-Hadi al-Hassani, vice chairman of the Oil and Gas Committee in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, said that Mr. Galbraith’s "interference was not justified, illegal and not right, particularly because he is involved in a company where his financial interests have been merged with the political interest."Mr al-Hassani does not explain how offering advice could possibly be illegal under Iraqi law[2] Galbraith responded in a letter to the Rutland Herald that "[e]ven a superficial analysis would show that [the allegations] could not be true. At the time the Iraqi Constitution was negotiated in 2005, I was a private citizen with no connection whatsoever with the U.S. government. In short, I was in no position to push through anything. At the request of Kurdistan's leaders, I did offer them advice on how to negotiate best to achieve their goals. But I never participated in any negotiations and was never in the room when they took place."'Galbraith also noted the benefits that the DNO deal brought to Kurdistan: "Until 2005, most Kurds saw Iraq’s oil as a curse and wish the country had none. Iraqi oil financed the armies that oppressed the Kurds and purchased the weapons, including poison gas, that Saddam Hussein used to commit genocide. DNO pioneered the creation of a Kurdistan oil industry that today has more than 30 companies operating in the region. Oil revenues give Kurdistan the means for real self-government, including the ability to defend itself. Today, Kurdistan is experiencing unprecedented prosperity financed in part by Kurdistan’s oil and in stark contrast to recent decades when Iraq’s oil paid for mass murder and the physical destruction of more than 5000 villages.[3]

Political commentator

Galbraith is a leading commentator on issues including political developments in Iraq, Afghanistan, amongst others. He has contributed opinion columns in relation to these issues for a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, The Independent and the New York Review of Books. On Iraq, he has consistently argued that "[c]ivil war and the breakup of Iraq are more likely outcomes [of the invasion of Iraq] than a successful transition to a pluralistic Western-style democracy".[4] He has also argued that the Bush administration "has put the United States on the side of undemocratic Iraqis who are Iran's allies".[5] On the 2009 Afghan Presidential Elections, he wrote in the New York Times that "[if] the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential elections [...] is a rerun of the fraud-stained first round, it will be catastrophic for that country and the allied military mission battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda."[6] After the election's second round was canceled, he wrote that "[t]he decision by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to cancel the second round and declare the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, the victor concludes a process that undermined Afghanistan's nascent democracy."[7]

Deputy U.N. Envoy to Afghanistan

Galbraith was announced as the next United Nations' Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan on March 25, 2009.[8] He is considered a close ally of Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan.[9]

Galbraith abruptly left the country in mid September 2009 at the request of UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide following a dispute over the handling of the reported fraud in the 2009 Afghan presidential election.[10] The two formerly close friends had a public dispute about the role of the U.N. in preventing and monitoring the massive fraud in this election. On September 30, the UN announced that he had been removed from his position by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[11] In response to his firing, Galbraith told The Times, "I was not prepared to be complicit in a cover-up or in an effort to downplay the fraud that took place. I felt we had to face squarely the fraud that took place. Kai downplayed the fraud."[12][13]. When Eide announced his own stepping down in December, 2009, he did not do so voluntarily, according to Galbraith, though Eide has said it was a voluntary departure.[14].

In December, 2009, Kai Eide and Vijay Nambiar accused Galbraith of proposing enlisting the White House in a plan to force the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to resign, and to install a more Western-friendly figure as president of Afghanistan. According to reports of the plan, which was never realized, the new government would be led by the former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, or by the former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. Karzai's term expired May 21, 2009 and the Supreme Court, in a controversial decision, extended until voting on August 20, 2009. Galbraith flatly denied there was a plan to oust Karzai. He said he and his staff merely had internal discussions on what to do if a runoff for the presidency were delayed until May 2010 as a result of the fraud problems and other matters. Karzai's continuation in office a full year after the end of his term would have been unconstitutional and unacceptable to the Afghan opposition. Galbraith explained that the internal discussions concerned avoiding a constitutional crisis, that any solution would have required the consent of both Karzai and the opposition, and the UN's involvement was consistent with its good offices role. He noted that Kai Eide, his chief accuser, proposed replacing Karzai with an interim government a month later in a meeting with foreign diplomats in Kabul. The United Nations announced that Galbraith had initiated legal action against the United Nations over his dismissal. The United Nations has an internal justice system under which such challenges can be lodged. Martin Nesirky, spokesman for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the reason Galbraith "was terminated was that the secretary general determined that such action would be in the interests of the organization" [15].

Academic career

Galbraith was an assistant professor of Social Relations at Windham College in Putney, Vermont, from 1975 to 1978.[16] Later, he was Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in 1999 and between 2001-2003.[17] In 2003, he resigned from the U.S. government service after 24 years.

US politics

On January 17, 2008 Galbraith told VPR that he was considering a run for the governorship of Vermont. He would have run as a Democrat against the incumbent Republican governor Jim Douglas and Progressive Anthony Pollina in the 2008 elections.[18] On May 13, he announced that he would not be running and said he would back former House Speaker Gaye Symington instead.[19]

Galbraith is a senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.


  • Galbraith, Peter (2006), The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End; Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0743294238
  • Galbraith, Peter W. (2008), Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America's Enemies; Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1416562257


  1. ^ Galbraith, Peter (2006). The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End. Simon and Schuster. pp. 4, 12, 222, 224. ISBN 0743294238. 
  2. ^ James Glanz and Walter Gibbs. "U.S. Adviser to Kurds Stands to Reap Oil Profits". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Peter Galbraith (2009-11-25). "No conflict in Kurdistan". 
  4. ^ "How to get out of Iraq?". New York Review of Books. 2004-05-13. 
  5. ^ "Is this a victory?". New York Review of Books. 2008-09-28. 
  6. ^ "Afghanistan Votes, the U.N. Dithers". The New York Times. 2009-10-27. 
  7. ^ "Karzai was hellbent on victory. Afghans will pay the price". The Guardian. 2009-11-02. 
  8. ^ Press Release (2009-03-25). "Secretary-General Appoints Peter W. Galbraith Of United States As Deputy Special Representative For Afghanistan". Secretary-General Department of Public Information. 
  9. ^ Bone, James; Coghlan, Tom (2009-03-17). "US strengthens diplomatic presence in Afghanistan". Times Online. 
  10. ^ Bone, James; Starkey, Jerone; Coghlan, Tom (2009-09-15). "UN chief Peter Galbraith is removed in Afghanistan poll clash". Times Online. 
  11. ^ Oppel, Richard A.; MacFarquhar, Neil (2009-09-30). "After Clash Over Afghan Election, U.N. Fires a Diplomat". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Bone, James (2009-10-01). "Sacked envoy Peter Galbraith accuses UN of 'cover-up' on Afghan vote fraud". Times Online. 
  13. ^ Hockenberry, John; Headlee, Celeste Headlee (2009-10-01). "Dismissed Afghan Envoy Speaks Out". Transcript of interview with Peter Galbraith ( 
  14. ^ "Galbraith: Eide was fired" by Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy "The Cable," 2009-12-14, 3:41pm. Footnote expanded 2009-12-17.
  15. ^ "Diplomat to Challenge Dismissal by U.N. After Afghan Vote "
  16. ^ "Faculty and Staff Windham". College Alumni Association. 
  17. ^ BBC News (2009-10-05). "Sacked UN man attacks mission". 
  18. ^ Curran, John (2008-01-22). "Former Ambassador Testing the Waters for Gubenatorial Bid". 
  19. ^ WCAX News (2008-05-13). "Galbraith Not Running for Governor". 

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