USDOS – US Department of State (Autor)
Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner that worked actively to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks within Oman and neighboring countries, or using the country for safe haven or to transport terrorists, weapons, and material. Omani officials engaged regularly with U.S. officials on the need to counter violent extremism and terrorism. The Government of Oman sought training and equipment from U.S. government and commercial entities and from other countries to support its efforts to control its land, air, and maritime borders. Oman used U.S. security assistance to improve its counterterrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Oman remained a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and also participated in the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York that took place on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September.
Throughout the year, Oman attended Counter-ISIL Campaign Planning Conferences hosted by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and Omani military representatives attended the Counter-ISIL Chief of Defense Conferences hosted by CENTCOM. The Omani government issued a series of official statements condemning ISIL terrorist attacks in 2015, most notably the immolation killing of a Jordanian Air Force pilot in February, and the mass beheadings of 21 Egyptians near Tripoli, Libya.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Counterterrorism investigations, crisis responses, and border security capabilities were limited by local capacity and a challenging operating environment due to Oman’s long and remote borders with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and its extensive coastline. There was, however, daily communication and coordination among the many agencies with jurisdiction over counterterrorism. Roles and responsibilities between law enforcement and the armed forces are not clearly delineated; however, the Sultan’s Special Forces and the Royal Oman Police Special Task Force are Oman’s primary entities responsible for counterterrorism.
The Government of Oman recognizes the need to improve its capabilities and takes advantage of U.S. counterterrorism and law enforcement training and assistance. In 2015, the Royal Oman Police Coast Guard, the Directorate General of Customs, and the Royal Army of Oman participated in U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) programs designed to assist Omani personnel in enhancing interdiction capabilities at official ports of entry on land and at seaports, in green border areas, and along the maritime border. Oman participated in a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-wide Regional Workshop on the Development of Strategic Trade Controls hosted by the EU and the Department of State in August, with the goal of harmonizing customs procedures and the regulatory framework within the GCC.
Oman participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which included training on maritime border security, cyber security, investigative information management, digital forensics, and critical incident management for Omani security officials representing a number of civilian agencies and the Royal Army of Oman. U.S. Army Central Command conducted a border security seminar in 2015 for Omani military units responsible for patrolling Oman’s borders, and several other subject matter expert exchanges with the Royal Oman Police, Coast Guard, and Royal Oman Police-Special Task Force.
Omani authorities continued to make progress on construction of a fence along the border with Yemen to deter entry into Oman without inspection along the long and remote border.
The major deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security are limited resources, nascent interagency coordination, and the need for continued training to develop advanced law enforcement skills. Oman’s border with Yemen, which features extremely rugged, mountainous terrain, further challenges border security efforts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Oman is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF). In April, Oman hosted the 21st meeting of the MENAFATF. Local media reported that in February, Oman signed a legal and judicial assistance agreement with the Government of India, aimed at improving cooperation on investigations, prosecutions, and counterterrorism efforts.
In January, Oman, represented by the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, began the second phase of a technical cooperation program with the International Monetary Fund, subsequent to an IMF delegation’s visit to Oman.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INSCR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Grand Mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmed al-Khalili, published an essay in October 2014, calling on all Muslims to reject extremism and promote tolerance – themes he again amplified in his popular and widely broadcast weekly television program. In March, al-Khalili met with Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim al Shaikh, Chairman of the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia, to discuss the importance of discarding violence and fanaticism and promoting tolerance and presenting a tolerant picture of Islam. Additionally, the government continued to promote an advocacy campaign entitled “Islam in Oman” designed to encourage tolerant and inclusive Islamic practices. The project highlighted the commonalities between Islam’s sects and between Islam and other religions. A Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs program titled “Tolerance, Understanding, Coexistence – Oman’s Message of Islam” was part of the government’s effort to enhance interfaith dialogue. The nature and scope of Oman’s initiatives to address domestic radicalization and recruitment to violence are unknown, but it is suspected that Oman maintains tightly controlled and non-public CVE initiatives in this area.
International and Regional Cooperation: Oman participates in the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, and took part in the August U.S.-GCC Counterterrorism and Border Security Working group meeting in Riyadh. Oman regularly votes in favor of counterterrorism measures in the UNGA, the Arab League, the GCC, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.