Kazakhstan Sending Troops to Afghanistan
Kazakhstan apparently has decided to send a contingent of troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, several news agencies have reported. From Reuters:
An unspecified number of Kazakh soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan on six-month missions with the International Security Assistance Force, in line with a bill passed by the lower house of parliament. The document did not say when the first Kazakh contingent would be going.
The government of Kazakhstan appears to not be trying to make a big splash with the news. The parliament's press service mentions the news only at the bottom of a very long account of yesterday's doings in the lower house of parliament (in Russian):
And today, the Chamber heard the report of the Vice-Minister of Defense Aset Kurmangaliyeva with Majlis member Ualikhan Kalizhanova, and voted to adopt the draft of the law "On Ratification of the Agreement in the form of an exchange of notes between Kazakhstan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to participate in the activities of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan." The bill was approved.
It would be worthwhile to know whether the soldiers being sent are those of the U.S.-backed KAZBRIG peacekeeping brigade. KAZBRIG has gotten off to a slower start than intended, so this would be a sign that at least some small part of the brigade is ready for overseas deployment.
I asked a Kazakhstan political analyst for her take on the news, and she said that it would be useful for Kazakhstan's armed forces to get experience in a real deployment. She added that it was clearly an attempt to bolster the country's vaunted multi-vector foreign policy, coming after recent pro-Russia and pro-China moves -- the establishment of a Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union and a big loan from China, respectively. But she added that it was likely to be unpopular in Kazakhstan -- which would account for the low-profile rollout of the news.