Kazakhstan's refusal to join Afghan campaign is reaction to public opinion and threat of Taliban

Kazakhstan's refusal to join Afghan campaign is reaction to public opinion and threat of Taliban

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 11 /Trend corr. E.Ostapenko/

Kazakhstan's Senate on Thursday rejected a bill on sending Kazakh troops to Afghanistan to join an international coalition ISAF. Previously, the lower house of parliament approved the bill.

According to experts, the decision of the upper chamber may be a reaction to an unexpected public resonance to the decision of Astana to join the international coalition in Afghanistan, and perhaps a reaction to the threat of the Taliban.

The Taliban movement threatened Kazakhstan on May 22 with "serious consequences" in case of sending troops to support NATO troops. "Kazakhstan focused on protecting U.S. interests, rather than taking into account the wishes of its people and its interests in the region," said in a document released by Reuters.

"Most likely, the recent violent incidents in Aktobe and Astana added to the threats from the Taliban have had a significant weight on their decision. The suicide-bombing in Aktobe took place almost simultaneously with the announcement of the sending of troops to Afghanistan," Nicolas de Pedro, researcher at CIDOB in Spain, told Trend.

In mid-May two blasts thundered in Kazakhstan during a week. The first occurred in western Aktobe city on May 17. The suicide bomber detonated in front of the security committee. Four people were wounded, only the bomber himself was killed.

The second incident occurred in a few days in the capital itself. Car exploded near the building of temporary detention facility of the National Security Committee, killing two people.

Both cases caused a great resonance in the country, since such incidents in Kazakhstan is an extreme rarity. The Kazakh Prosecutor's Office did not recognize the incidents as terrorist attacks, identifying them to the dismantling of criminal circles.

De Pedro said the resonance is quite remarkable and it is probably a reflection of both the reiteration about the "no terrorist threat" from the local authorities and some popular consciousness on the fragility of the basis that sustains the "island of stability" of Central Asia.

The Kazakh political analyst Eduard Poletayev, however, does not believe that the threat of the Taliban have become a decisive factor in the decision of the upper chamber.

He said the threat from the Taliban might be a myth. "Although the statement was released by an authoritative agency like Reuters, no one has found reference to the primary source," Poletayev, editor of Izvestiya-Kazakhstan newspaper, told Trend.

The Senate is increasingly guided by the sentiments of the Kazakh society, he said.

"Domestic consumers reacted very negatively to the fact that Kazakhstan plans to send troops to Afghanistan, tough there were only four volunteers being sent not on the front, said Poletayev. - The ground was probed, and it was clarified that the public has a negative attitude towards this idea."

International coalition forces have been deployed in the country since 2001, when the U.S. began its war against terror.

Kazakhstan is not the first or the only state with Muslim population participating in the war in Afghanistan. The international coalition includes 47 states, 19 of which are not part of NATO, and the six members of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Kazakhstan is already providing territory for transit of military cargo and personnel to Afghanistan. Neighbouring Kyrgyzstan has leased to Pentagon the base in the capital's airport, providing the activity of Western military coalition.

Despite that regional security is one of the directions of Kazakhstan's foreign policy, Poletayev sees definite positive in the refusal of the Senate to ratify the bill.

"Thus, Kazakhstan shows its peaceful nature, and secondly, is positioning itself a relatively democratic country, demonstrating that the disagreement in society are reflected in the decisions of the legislative branch", he said.

Senator Svetlana Dzhalmagambetova believes that sending Kazakhstani troops as part of the NATO mission to Afghanistan will lead to "a gradual tying of Kazakhstan to military operations in Afghanistan."

"It should not be allowed", RIA Novosti quoted the Senator. "Today the U.S. are thinking about the withdrawal [of the troops] from Afghanistan. Is it worth at the last moment to spoil the reputation of our country?"

Poletayev, however, believes that Kazakhstan should not completely refuse to participate in the stabilization of neighboring Afghanistan, which is a bastion of instability in the region. Afghanistan is a threat both because of the spread of drugs, and the threat of terrorism.

"Kazakhstan is aware that if the situation gets out of control, through the hole border of its neighbor all of these will wash over the territory of Kazakhstan," said Poletayev.

Moreover, Kazakhstan recognizes the economic benefits, expert said.

"Afghanistan is a transit state. For a long time it will remain the importer of basic resources and food, which Kazakhstan could deliver", said Poletayev. "For instance, cement or grain are unreasonable to be imported from the U.S. or Europe, while it can be delivered from Kazakhstan by rail road, and it would be much cheaper."

Kazakh political analyst Aidos Sarym considers the decision of the Senate as an emotional and not meeting the country's national interests, RIA Novosti quoted.

"Kazakhstan has to deal with Afghanistan, including deploying its officers. I consider it very right, necessary decision, because if we do not deal with Afghanistan, sooner or later, Afghanistan will deal with us," said Sarym.

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