It appears that Kazakhstan has gotten cold feet about its proposed deployment of four officers to Afghanistan. Last week, the upper house of the parliament rejected the bill authorizing their deployment, but that move seemed like it could have been a bit of political theater. Now the lower house of parliament -- which approved the bill a month ago -- has now said it won't support the bill. RIA Novosti quotes one member of the lower house, Nurtai Sabilyanov:
"Given the opinion of the senate and the public, the Majilis [lower house] will return the agreement to the government and it will have no legal effect because of the non-ratification by parliament," Sabilyanov said.
Majilis ratified the agreement with NATO on May 18 but the upper house turned the bill down on June 9 pending a decision from a joint parliamentary session.
"We must not send [our] military to Afghanistan, it is clear to all," he said.
Another MP, Tasbay Simambayev, wrote in the government newspaper Liter that senators "breathed a sigh of relief" when the bill was voted down: "Our country should not be dragged into someone else's wars." His piece (not online, via BBC Monitoring) focused on the threat of terror that Kazakhstan would expose itself to. But there also was an intriguing reference to "ambiguous reaction from our close partners":
Many arguments were voiced in favour of the need to increase the Kazakh military's combat experience, that we need a closer cooperation with the North Atlantic alliance, that we are bound by agreements and so on. But the point is that no international, foreign policy activity should harm Kazakhstan's reputation and security.
Therefore, a decision to send Kazakh servicemen [to Afghanistan] might provoke ambiguous reaction both from our close partners and those from whom we have to stay away.
As it happens, the leaders of some of those close partners, like Russia and China, are in Astana today for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Is there a connection? Did one or both of those countries lean on Kazakhstan to renege on the deployment? It seems more plausible than the idea that Kazakhstan would have been spooked by the threat of terror, in spite of the two attacks that occurred just after word came out about the deployment. There is no evidence that those attacks had anything to do with the Afghanistan deployment, and while there are probably plenty of good reasons not to get involved in the Afghanistan war, that isn't one of them. So does this mean the "anti-NATO" SCO is again rearing its head?