Oman’s Diplomatic Bridge in Afghanistan

On October 16, American, Afghan, Chinese, and Pakistani diplomats met to discuss the war in Afghanistan for the first time since the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)’s holding of talks in Islamabad last year. Per the US State Department’s request, the meeting took place in Oman. Over the past several decades, Muscat has emerged as a unique platform for diplomatic engagement between various actors with opposing interests and competing agendas throughout the Muslim world’s war zones, including Syria and Yemen in recent years.

Launched in January 2016, the QCG was to utilize its members’ influence over Kabul and Taliban fighters to bring both sides to the roundtable. Yet the US military’s killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in Pakistan’s Baluchistan in May 2016 led to a breakdown in talks following the fifth session. Islamabad saw the killing as undermining the peace process. Since last year, heightened tension in Afghan-Pakistani relations, with Kabul accusing Islamabad of using the Taliban as a proxy, have also hindered the QCG’s ability to make substantial progress.

Oman hosted but did not participate in the QCG’s latest meeting, which is a small, albeit important, step in advancing a dialogue between the US and Pakistan on the Afghan file. Omani efforts to defuse tension in US-Pakistan relations are not new. In February 2011, one month after CIA contractor Raymond Davis’s arrest, US and Pakistani officials met for talks in Oman to address the crisis and other issues plaguing bilateral relations, particularly the war in Afghanistan.

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