"The main opposition to Pakistan's government is a Muslim fundamentalist movement," says TIME New Delhi bureau chief Tim McGirk. "The last thing the U.S. wants is an economic collapse that would bring them to power." Hence the quick -- even by Clinton's standards -- policy turnaround from fist-pounding and sanctions to signing off on a $5 billion check. Pakistan's current regime may sometimes be unmanageable, but for U.S. officials, the alternative is unthinkable.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Six months ago, Pakistan was arm-wrestling India in a game of regional cold war; now it's got its hand out. With the United States' blessing, the IMF on Wednesday announced a $5.5 billion bailout of the debt-ridden nuclear power; the money will go to deficit reduction, foreign loan servicing and, most vitally -- at least from the U.S. point of view -- keeping the current government in power.