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The Rocky Road of Kazakhstan's Afghanistan Deployment

The possible scuppering of Kazakhstan's planned deployment to Afghanistan appears to be a result of genuine parliamentary opposition to the move, heightened by the still-mysterious and probably unrelated bombing in western Kazakhstan. That's the analysis of Roger McDermott, a very knowledgable source on Kazakhstan military issues, writing in Jamestown's Eurasia Daily Monitor.

McDermott suggests that it was the combined effect of public opposition to the deployment -- in particular by veterans of the Soviet Afghan war -- and the apparent terror attacks:

In isolation, such campaigning stood little chance of success. What no official had foreseen was an unexpected terrorist incident in Aktobe, on the country’s Caspian coast....

The confluence of several factors, partly predictable and unforeseen developments, influenced senators to draw back from approving the bill. In the hiatus between announcing the agreement and seeking to conclude the ratification process, explanations offered to the wider society did not eliminate the misperception that Astana may become a direct combatant.

McDermott adds, however, that the parliamentary rejection is "neither final nor outright." There is a provision in the country's constitution which requires decisions like this to be made by a joint session of parliament, not by two separate votes by the two houses:

Although some senators [expressed] outright opposition to any Kazakhstani military involvement in Afghanistan, according to Mukhtar Altynbayev, a member of the Senate's International Affairs, Defense and Security Committee, and former Defense Minister, senators voted against the bill on his initiative. Altynbayev tabled a procedural issue, highlighting point 5, article 53 of the constitution which stipulates that such decisions require a joint session of both chambers.

It's doubtful that provision would be invoked if the deployment weren't so publicly controversial, though. And McDermott doesn't address the question of how independently the parliamentarians might be acting, or if they might be acting according to the wishes of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Now, McDermott says, in order to get the deployment approved -- and to keep Astana's cooperation with NATO on track -- the Kazakhstan government needs to figure out how to navigate the "sensitive" policy issue. It will certainly be interesting to see how, and if, they try to do that.

The Rocky Road of Kazakhstan's Afghanistan Deployment

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