Kazakhstan’s Deputy Defense Minister Talgat Mukhtarov announced on Monday that the country will deploy troops to Lebanon to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. The rotational deployment is expected to include 120 servicemen, who will be patrolling the UN-drawn borderline between Israel and Lebanon, according to the official.
“We went through all the necessary procedures - there are only certain nuances that the UN demands us [to solve], so, the squad will be sent by late 2018,” Mukhtarov told Kazakhstan’s Tengrinews following a parliament session that took place on April 9.
The United Nations Interim Force, or UNIFIL, is deployed in southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon War, a 34-day military conflict between Hezbollah paramilitary forces and the Israel Defense Forces. Together with the Lebanese army, roughly 11,000 military servicemen from 41 countries patrol what is over 49-mile border between Lebanon and Israel, known as the “Blue Line.”
Earlier this year officials in Astana had announced that a mission of about 170 troops would be sent to join any of the ongoing UN peacekeeping campaigns around the world, which would include women, adhering to UN standards and practices.
Kazakhstan’s peacekeeping contribution to Lebanon comes at a time when troop numbers are at an historic low. Five Kazakhstani officers are currently deployed in Western Sahara, where the UN’s MINURSO mission provides protection for holding a referendum that will allow the people of Western Sahara to choose independence or integration with Morocco.
Since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan has sent very small contingents of soldiers to Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. Troops headed for Lebanon will be the country’s first major peacekeeping activity, and the second major mission the Kazakhstani military has undertaken since the NATO-led operation in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, nearly 300 Kazakhstanis supported Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The news of sending troops to Lebanon, and boosting peacekeeping efforts worldwide, comes at a time when Astana is proactively trying to boost the Caspian and Central Asia regions country on the world stage.
Peace talks aimed at solving the standoff in Syria, mediated by Kazakhstan, have been regularly held for well over a year, dubbed the Astana Process. The fourth round of talks, held in May 2017, resulted in a ceasefire agreement signed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
During Kazakhstan’s presidency at the United Nations Security Council in January, the country managed to promote the idea of economic assistance for a post-conflict settlement in Central Asia’s Afghanistan. For the very first time, the countries neighboring Afghanistan wished for the closer economic and trade cooperation with this country, while a Security Council delegation visited Afghanistan to observe the situation first-hand from the ground.
“All listed cases are a great experience for our diplomacy,” said Timur Shaymergenov, a Deputy Director at the Library of the First President.
“I think that thanks to [this experience], we can make a big progress while training our diplomats to solve different crises, mediate, as well as to create reliable negotiation platforms.”