Representatives from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States are meeting in Muscat, Oman, on Monday to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban. The insurgent group, however, is not participating in the sixth Quadrilateral Coordination Group’s (QCG) meeting.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said last week the group was not interested in the initiative, which was launched in 2015.
This is the first QCG meeting after the death of the former Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in May 2016.
Still, the Muscat talks are believed to be significant because Islamabad and Washington appear to be ironing out their differences over how to find a political solution to the protracted Afghanistan conflict.
Previous five QGC meetings did not yield any result.
US President Donald Trump, who had earlier criticized Islamabad for not doing enough against extremist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said “the Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wishes.”
Trump’s hard line toward Islamabad
It appears that Trump’s carrot and stick policy for Pakistan is yielding results. The talks in Muscat are also an indication that Pakistan’s security establishment, which has long been accused of sheltering and backing proxy jihadists, is at least willing to pay attention to Trump’s demands.
“The meeting is aimed to review Pakistan’s commitments on talks (peace) that had been made at previous meetings,” said Shekib Mustaghni Mustaghni, Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister.
“The resumption of the QCG process shows that Pakistan is feeling the international pressure,” Fiaz Mohammand Zaland, a Kabul University lecturer, told DW, adding that Islamabad wanted to assure Washington that it was willing to work with Kabul toward bringing the Taliban to negotiations.
“Pakistani officials want to show to Americans that they are doing their part in the process,” Zaland added.
The Pakistani delegation for Muscat talks is led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif recently told US media he was optimistic about the meeting.
“The quadrilateral arrangement will again be in operation. So, that is something we still hope will… still work,” Asif said.
But Afghan officials and politicians are not very hopeful about the process, mainly due to the perception that Islamabad will not relinquish support to groups like the Haqqani Network.