Kazakhstan's proposed deployment of a handful of officers to Afghanistan has hit a snag; the country's upper house in the parliament has rejected the bill to send the troops, a couple of weeks after the lower house approved it.
RT quotes a couple of parliament members who suggested public opinion was part of the reason:
Astana should not get involved in the military activities in Afghanistan, said Svetlana Dzhalmagambetova, a deputy of the upper house. “The Senate has taken a right decision not to ratify the bill on sending troops,” Interfax quoted her as saying. Deputies had heated discussions in the parliament’s committees, the deputy said.
Now that the US is considering withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, it would be unacceptable for Astana to send servicemen after refraining for so long, Dzhalmagambetova noted. The move would tarnish the country’s reputation as a peaceful state, she believes.
Another senator, Tasbay Simambaev, said during the meeting that Kazakhstan had all the grounds to reject the ratification. The country should maintain a balanced foreign policy and neutral position, he stressed. Public opinion was also against the agreement with NATO, he said.
But Kazakhstan's parliament is generally regarded as a mere rubber stamp; all of its members are from the party of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. So there's likely something more behind it. I asked my EurasiaNet colleague Joanna Lillis for her take on the politics of the issue, and she had several theories:
1. it's pure political theater, meant to make it appear as if the parliament does actually have a say. In this case the bill might be reworked slightly and would pass again.
2. The administration, possibly spooked by the Taliban threats against Kazakhstan and subsequent mysterious attacks in the country, is looking for a way out and engineered this vote as a face-saving measure.
3. There is genuine resistance among members of parliament. In this case, Nazarbayev could simply override their objections and sign the bill into law, citing national security interests.
In the end, of course, it's only four soldiers, so this may not matter much to Kabul. But you can bet it's being closely watched in Washington, Brussels and Moscow.