Almost after a year, the Quadrilateral Contact Group (QCG) involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China met, this time in Muscat Oman on 16 October 2017. There was no statement at the end of the meeting either reviewing the talks so far, or presenting a new road map.
The meeting is important – for this is the first meeting after Trump taking over. This is also the first meeting of the killing of Taliban leader in 2016 by an American drone, which led to the collapse of the QCG initiative. One of the primary focus of the previous QCG talks was getting the Afghan Taliban to the table.
Pakistan was expected to use its influence on bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. More than other three countries, Pakistan is excited about the resumption of the QCG, for two reasons. First, there is a general perception within Pakistan that the QCG is a Pakistani initiative. Second, the resumption of QCG provides an institutional mechanism for Pakistan to set an agenda, or dismiss another.
For Pakistan, QCG is a diplomatic leverage, not only vis-à-vis Kabul, but also vis-à-vis Washington. In this context, the recent meeting of an American delegation in Islamabad led by Lisa Curtis should have broken the ice, after a thaw in relations between US and Pakistan, following the harsh statement by Trump.
So what next for the QCG and Pakistan? Much would depend on the Taliban leadership – whether they would like to take part in the negotiations, and what will they demand in return for the same. One is also not sure of the influence of Pakistan over the present Taliban leadership; after the killing of Mullah Mansour, the Taliban is also wary of Pakistan. Within Afghanistan, taking part in a negotiations would be a political disaster for the Taliban.
Much would also depend on how far Kabul is willing to play along the QCG.