A senior Defense Ministry official in Kazakhstan has said that 120 troops are set to be dispatched to Lebanon in the fall as part of a UN peacekeeping operation.
Local media cited Deputy Defense Minister Talgat Mukhtarov as saying on April 9 that “all the necessary procedures have been completed, and all that remains are the details required by the UN.”
The reporting of Mukhtarov’s remarks do not make it clear whether the Kazakh troops will be operating under the auspices of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization’s peacekeeping forces contingent, however.
The CSTO has been positioning itself actively as a potential resource in this area. Back in December, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, met with CSTO Deputy Secretary-General Valery Semerikov in Moscow to “explore enhanced partnerships with regional organizations for UN peacekeeping.”
Speaking in October on the sidelines of peacekeeping exercises in southern Kazakhstan, CSTO general secretary Yuri Khatchaturov sought to cast the UN in the role of the pleading petitioner.
“The global situation is worsening, the number of armed conflicts is increasing, so the need for peacekeeping operations is increasing. The UN is already experiencing problems with this, so they have appealed to us to get involved in this work,” Khatchaturov said.
Mukhtarov said Kazakhstan had previously refrained from peacekeeping operations because of a lack of clarity in national legislation about the specific rights and duties of the troops involved. Pertinent legislation was finally adopted in 2015, however, opening the way for deployments.
Kazakhstan has to date offered its peacekeeping capabilities on a unilateral basis. President Nursultan Nazarbayev formed his country’s KazBat peacekeeping battalion in 2000 with the intention that it would ultimately pursue enhanced interoperability with US and NATO forces.
Three years after the battalion was formed, Kazakh peacekeepers were dispatched to Iraq, where they were engaged in detecting and destroying live ordinance and in projects to provide the local population with water and medical services. One Kazakh soldier and seven Ukrainians were killed in January 2005 while detonating ordinance at an ammunition depot outside a town 50 kilometers south of Baghdad. The KazBat contingent was withdrawn from Iraq in 2008.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.