The rapid collapse of Afghanistan's army and corrupt government in the aftermath of the Trump-negotiated pull out with the Taliban not only handed the country to the Taliban. It added to the influence of its neighbor Pakistan, a rogue "ally" of the U.S. which seldom acts as one. As early backers of the Taliban before they were rooted out by U.S. forces two decades ago, Pakistan further diminished its stock with the West after Osama bin Laden was discovered hiding there in 2011. For it's part, they've seen the U.S. draw increasingly closer to their main adversary India over the past 20 years, most recently in the establishment of the "Quad" security arrangement with the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia.
The U.S. is engaging with Pakistan now to use whatever influence it has on the regime of Pakistan's leader Imran Khan to have a moderating influence on the Taliban, whose leaders are reportedly close to Pakistan's intelligence service. It's not a good sign that Khan, in his remarks to the UN General Assembly yesterday, blamed the U.S. for being "ungrateful" for Pakistan's support in the war on terror. Pakistan wants U.S. economic and military aid, and a lessening of its relations with India, while the U.S. wants Pakistan to use its influence on the Taliban and to allow military operations, including drone flights, over Pakistan.
For 20 years and more, U.S. officials describe Pakistan as playing a "double game" with us and our adversaries in that part of the world. Now that Pakistan has a virtual "client state" in Afghanistan, it remains to be seen if the game will change.
(photo: Secretary of State Blinken meets with Pakistani officials Sept. 23 at UNGA. State Department)