Many of the Afghan state's vital signs are weakening. The transition necessitated by the withdrawal of most American and NATO forces has proven exceedingly difficult. Security has diminished, especially over this last year, as the Taliban have made steady military gains. Roughly half of the country's 34 provinces are under severe or strong risk of falling to the insurgents, according to a recent U.N. report. The economy is struggling to adjust to a sharp drop-off in military-related spending.
Pakistan can ill afford to become another battleground for sectarian competition instigated by Iran and Saudi Arabia. As it has done so many times before, Islamabad will seek to mollify the concerns of both Tehran and Riyadh, but without falling victim to their cold war for regional supremacy.