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Thread: Afghanistan

  1. #1
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Post Afghanistan

    Inspired by a recent post in the Obama thread by Xiahou. Our current President is doubling-down in Afghanistan, replacing the general in charge of the theater with a counterinsurgency expert.

    A counterinsurgency expert is thrilled:

    Now there is a lot of stuff at work here. First, I heard rumors that McChrystal might replace McKiernan only last Friday, when a senior U.S. policy-maker cornered me and asked me what I thought of McChrystal. That's kinda like asking a rifleman in the French Army what he thinks of Napoleon. Although I indeed served under McChrystal's command in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I do not know him personally and was but one cog in a giant machine at the time.

    I do know that many policy-makers and journalists think that McChrystal's work as the head of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command was the untold success story of the Surge and the greater war on terror campaigns. I also know that McChrystal and David Petraeus forged a close working relationship in Iraq in 2007 and have much respect for one another. (Prior to 2007, the relations between the direct-action special operations task force and the overall command in Iraq were strained at best.)

    Second, let's not beat around the bush: Gen. McKiernan was fired -- and fired in a very public manner. Secretary Gates' exact words: "I have asked for the resignation of General David McKiernan."

    Damn.

    This tells me that President Obama, Secretary Gates, and Gen. Petraeus are as serious as a heart attack about a shift in strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was ruthless, and they were not about to do the George Casey thing whereby a commander is left in the theater long after he is considered to have grown ineffective.

    The sad truth of the matter is that people have been calling for McKiernan's head for some time now. Many of the people with whom I have spoken do not think that McKiernan "gets" the war in Afghanistan -- or counterinsurgency warfare in general. There was very little confidence that -- with McKiernan in charge in Afghanistan -- we the United States had the varsity squad on the field.

    That all changed today. I do not know if the war in Afghanistan is winnable. But I do know that Stan McChrystal is an automatic starter in anyone's line-up.
    Game on.

    Time's Joel Klein throws some cold water:

    McKiernan's caution may have been the right impulse. Here is the basic problem: unlike Iraq, where tribal Awakening Councils were stood up to fight the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorists--who were mostly foreign imports--the local militias in Afghanistan are being asked to fight their own Pashtun brothers, the Taliban. When I was in Afghanistan last month, a Pashtun from Wardak warned Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Mike Mullen that many of the people signing up for the local militia were from the Hazara minority. "It won't work," the man said. "The Pashtun see this as not our government."

    In the end, the only possible solution in Wardak and other majority Pashtun provinces is reconciliation with the local Taliban (who are, in truth, a closer equivalent to the Sunni tribes in Anbar who changed sides and became the Awakening Councils). The best possible deal would be acceptance of the Taliban into the Afghan governing structure in return for a pledge--and supporting intelligence--that they will no longer give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda (who are, once again, mostly foreign fighters). This won't be easy to achieve, or enforce, especially not after the last eight years--on the other hand, the Al Qaeda-style religious extremists are compiling an unblemished record of being kicked out of the areas where they've taken control because their brand of Islam is so inhumane and irreligious. If we can't figure out a way to come to terms with the majority of local Taliban, who are religious and Pashtun but not Al Qaeda-style extremists, we will not be successful in Afghanistan.

    I'm not sure what to think. Afghanistan may be a much more difficult proposition that Iraq. Many of the people we are fighting are locals; the porous border with Pakistan gives our enemies a safe haven; six years of neglect and mismanagement by the previous administration have given us a lot of ground to make up. Is it winnable? What would "winning" be, exactly?

    In many ways Iraq was the graveyard of the Bush administration. It's quite possible that Afghanistan will serve the same function for the Obama administration. I devoutly wish for us to succeed in both theaters, but I fear that success is hazy and shapeless. Thoughts?
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Afghanistan is, like Russia, unconquerable. That's just how it is. Noone has ever successfully secured eithre of thos for themselves.

  3. #3
    Arena Senior Member Crazed Rabbit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    I'm not sure what to think. Afghanistan may be a much more difficult proposition that Iraq.
    Which is somewhat Ironic, at least considering views about the conflicts a few years ago. Good to see Obama's supporting the war Afghanistan.

    As for the graveyard - I think it's less likely. He didn't start it, it's on a smaller scale than Iraq. But it is possible; Bush pulled a measure of success from Iraq and it still did huge damage to his political capital.

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    Master of Few Words Senior Member KukriKhan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    I'm betting Prezzie O wants both theaters well finished by summer 2012, if not before, with Iraqi and Afghan forces significantly in the lead, and a tiny, if existant at all, US presence in-country.

    So: emphasis on quickly training-up local forces (a task best suited to Spec Ops types; it's their original charter), with the Diplo's working the loyalty to national gov't angle (a really tough row to hoe; probably gonna take a bunch of money to accomplish that).
    Be well. Do good. Keep in touch.

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    L'Etranger Senior Member Banquo's Ghost's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    Is it winnable? What would "winning" be, exactly?
    I think that is the key to the campaign. It's very difficult to describe exactly what winning looks like for the US. Changing generals is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic without that clarity.

    More to the point, the real challenge is that there is no effective border for the Taleban (amongst many factions) between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whereas there most certainly is for the coalition forces. Pakistan has always been the problem first and foremost. It's also a nuclear power that has Islamicist militant sympathisers right next to the button.

    Then you have the economics of trying to develop a country whose main crop is heroin using a hierarchy of corrupt officials and warlords.

    In other words, time to leave. Bin Laden was chased into caves and his network severely compromised. To me, that was the mission in Afghanistan - the rest is imperial, and doomed to the usual graveyard of imperial ambition in that benighted country.
    "If there is a sin against life, it consists not so much in despairing as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this one."
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    Useless Member Member Fixiwee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Banquo's Ghost View Post
    In other words, time to leave. Bin Laden was chased into caves and his network severely compromised. To me, that was the mission in Afghanistan - the rest is imperial, and doomed to the usual graveyard of imperial ambition in that benighted country.
    First of all I want to say I'm by no means an expert on this matter. My view on this topic is pretty much of what I gather from the media.
    Having said that, the situation in Afghanistan seems to me like quagmire. There is no definition about what "winning" is and the US has absolutley no clue in which direction they want to be heading. In a sense of the military I guess pulling out is an option, but let's face it, that would be admitting that the Afghanistan conflict is lost.
    And I'm not too sure that Obama wants to be the guy to do it. Can't blame him though.

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    Kanto Kanrei Member Marshal Murat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    I think Afghanistan is a coin-flip. We could either keep in place the "Westmoreland-esque" general of conventional conflicts or we could replace him with a man who knows what he's doing. Gates is giving the new General (who sounds so American, it's like one parent owns McDonalds, the other a Car company) the resources, more troops, and more support to finally stamp out the Taliban, ensure good accounting, and stabilizing the entire region, hopefully by ensuring something approximating a sustainable economy.

    [rant]It's this post Vietnam funk that we're in, afraid of a "quagmire" when we've pulled through in the Philippines, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. [rant]
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    Poll Smoker Senior Member CountArach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    If we leave now then it doesn't matter who is in charge. Just a suggestion.
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  9. #9
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by CountArach View Post
    If we leave now then it doesn't matter who is in charge. Just a suggestion.
    Do you live in some sort of parellel pink universe with bulletproof rainbows where the Taliban isn't a threat?

  10. #10
    Poll Smoker Senior Member CountArach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Fragony View Post
    Do you live in some sort of parellel pink universe with bulletproof rainbows where the Taliban isn't a threat?
    Yes, but really it's more of an isolated island than a parallel universe.
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    Useless Member Member Fixiwee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Fragony View Post
    Do you live in some sort of parellel pink universe with bulletproof rainbows where the Taliban isn't a threat?
    Uhm? Was the Taliban ever a threat? This war was against the al-Qaida in the first place and not against the Taliban. From what I can say, the Taliban was there before the US went into the country, and the Taliban will be there after they left.

  12. #12
    TexMec Senior Member Louis VI the Fat's Avatar
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    Default Re : Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    What would "winning" be, exactly?
    Winning in Afghanistan means preserving the highly endangered snow leopard as well as happened before the invasion.

    Afghanistan's snow leopard under threat from big game hunters

    Rare snow leopards and mountain sheep are at risk from American and European big game hunters willing to pay $40,000 (£21,000) for the chance to shoot in one of the remotest corners of Afghanistan.
    Under the Taleban, the snow leopard and other equally highly endagered species were very well protected. This ended immediately after the West moved in.

    Frustrated warnings have been issued by environmental groups since 2004:
    "Now the threat is from badly managed tourism and trophy hunting as roads and communications improve and more foreigners start coming to Afghanistan. American hunting companies are going to be prepared to spend a lot of money to start this business. There is going to be a lot of pressure on Kabul."

    Like the large scale looting of Iraq's cultural and historical treasures (they were beyond comparison in 2003, are beyond repair and recovery now) so too did Afghanistan's phenomenal natural treasures become an object of Western looting, private plunder, and abject phillistinery.
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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    An analagy to a hornet's nest is probably a good one. Through "affermative action" a group of deranged fundimentalists happly ruling one country have had their horizons lifted thanks to the attentions of America's size 22s. The swarm now threatens surrounding areas and now looks to have more nests than before!

    What is the cost of containment verses engagement? Either way I don't think this hydra is going to be killed.

    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Re : Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Louis VI the Fat View Post
    Like the large scale looting of Iraq's cultural and historical treasures (they were beyond comparison in 2003, are beyond repair and recovery now) so too did Afghanistan's phenomenal natural treasures become an object of Western looting, private plunder, and abject phillistinery.
    Of course, except the ones the Taliban blew up with dynomite or otherwise destroyed...
    Looting and plunder at least means they're valued. During the Chinese Rrevolution the stuff the West stole is in one piece. Lots that was left was destroyed as evidence of progress. I'm more concerned with the abject phillistinery from either the West or the locals. The stuff should either be removed en masse for protection or the sites protected and experts brought in.

    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
    Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.
    "If you can't trust the local kleptocrat whom you installed by force and prop up with billions of annual dollars, who can you trust?" Lemur
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    A very, very Senior Member Adrian II's Avatar
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    Default Re: Re : Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Louis VI the Fat View Post
    Like the large scale looting of Iraq's cultural and historical treasures (they were beyond comparison in 2003, are beyond repair and recovery now) so too did Afghanistan's phenomenal natural treasures become an object of Western looting, private plunder, and abject phillistinery.
    This is why Louis is indispensable on this forum.

    Ok, here's the short of it. 'We' are in Afghanistan to stop the Taliban from taking over the entire region and getting their hands on Pakistan's nuclear arms.

    And to save the Afghan flying squirrel of course. Squeep squeep!


    Last edited by Adrian II; 05-21-2009 at 00:04.
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    Oni Member Samurai Waki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Success really hinges on what Pakistan decides, or can do. If they eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan, than they really have nowhere else to hide (save Iran) which is having fits about Afghan refugees crossing their border.

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    A very, very Senior Member Adrian II's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Wakizashi View Post
    Success really hinges on what Pakistan decides, or can do. If they eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan, than they really have nowhere else to hide (save Iran) which is having fits about Afghan refugees crossing their border.
    And if they don't eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan, Nato will have to do it for them. In which case a certain substance will hit a certain fan, a case for which Mr Obama seems to be preparing quite adequately. I like his style.
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    smell the glove Senior Member Major Robert Dump's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    The guy Obama canned wasn't doing a bad job at all. It's more of a cosmetic makeover, the new general is more like the old one than not.
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    Useless Member Member Fixiwee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Major Robert Dump View Post
    The guy Obama canned wasn't doing a bad job at all. It's more of a cosmetic makeover, the new general is more like the old one than not.
    What a knock-out argument.

  20. #20
    Member Member Alexander the Pretty Good's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian II View Post
    And if they don't eradicate the Taliban in Pakistan, Nato will have to do it for them. In which case a certain substance will hit a certain fan, a case for which Mr Obama seems to be preparing quite adequately. I like his style.
    You advocate invading Pakistan?

  21. #21

    Default Re: Afghanistan

    I think the US should invade both Iran and Pakistan. WE have enough military punch to erradicate terrorism, but only if the governments that protect it are erradicated too in a large effort for our safety, which is our primary concern.

    Last edited by A Terribly Harmful Name; 05-28-2009 at 01:02.

  22. #22
    Banned Kadagar_AV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Burgoyne View Post
    I think the US should invade both Iran and Pakistan. WE have enough military punch to erradicate terrorism, but only if the governments that protect it are erradicated too in a large effort for our safety, which is our primary concern.

    *laughs*

    Good one!

  23. #23
    Master of Few Words Senior Member KukriKhan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur
    Is it winnable? What would "winning" be, exactly?
    The capture of Osama bin Laden. The original purpose of going to Afghanistan. Then we're done.

    All else is (expensive) fluff. Including Iraq, and nation-building, and surges, etc.
    Last edited by KukriKhan; 05-28-2009 at 01:51.
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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    So, turning Bin Laden from a figurehead to a martyr is going to cause A-Q to implode??!?

    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
    Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.
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  25. #25
    Enlightened Despot Member Vladimir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    The martyrdom fear is an excuse for inaction. The same can be said about a number of leaders with a fanatical following.


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  26. #26
    smell the glove Senior Member Major Robert Dump's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by Fixiwee View Post
    What a knock-out argument.

    sorry to let you down, I know how lots of you people tune in to the backroom solely to hear my brilliant arguments and wonderful analogies. so I'll go into detail a little more.


    I don't know everything, but what I do know is that the junior officer corps of the army is vastly different from the general and field officers, and the unofficial opinion of a vast number of junior officers is that the new general in theater is no more of a counterinsurgency expert than the last. Keep in mind A lot of the junior officers were former enlisted who went to combat and were so disappointed with the leadership (people who are now field level and up) that they decided to become officers.

    The mission has pretty much been the same since day one. The only thing thats different now are the numbers: more troops, more money. It's a damn shame, considering had we spent even a fraction of Iraqs funding on Afghanistan we would have cell phone towers, fluid highways, solid power sources and infrasctructure in place, the list goes on and on and on but we can't change the idiot mistakes of our past leaders which brings us to today:

    It's cosmetic. New face brings the illusion of new and immediate change, when in fact both generals have a fairly similar leadership style and command philosophy. Whats happening in theater now is exactly what some at the Pentagon and more than a few forced-to-retire DOD officials who were critics of the Bush administration have been saying since late 2006: the poppy yield in 07 and 08 would be huge, which would provide more funds for the Taliban, which means more Taliban with more weapons and more equipment, which means surge in Taliban activity in 09.

    Wild card Pakistan notwithstanding, not a lot is going to change without more troops and more money. The majority of the NATO forces in country have jacked up ROEs which pretty much take them out of the fight, which leaves the burden on a few select participants. We need to flood Afghanistan with troops and money because its turning into a logistics war. The meat and potatoes of the war there is mobility, supply and keeping villages fed and protected. This would be a lot easier with better roads, more airstrips, running water and cell phones.
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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Afghanistan is a black hole where time, money, resources and lives will disappear.

    There are so many better things to spend money on than waste it on them. Cell phone towers will be bombed, and possibly dams and power sources too (unIslamic). In a world of infinite resources perhaps this is worth it. As it stands the aim should be containment as cheap as possible. Possibly view the place like Japan viewed Manchuria - a good training ground for green troops. Winnable / civilisable? not a chance.

    An enemy that wishes to die for their country is the best sort to face - you both have the same aim in mind.
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    This comment is witty! Senior Member LittleGrizzly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    TBH I see taking out Bin Laden to stop Al Qaeda being quite similar to taking out Obama to stop the US military... wouldn't really have much of an effect... the most reason it would change it becase of the new guys policy (for both examples) but i imagine bin laden's no.2 and so on are going to be pretty similar guys...
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  29. #29
    Master of Few Words Senior Member KukriKhan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleGrizzly View Post
    TBH I see taking out Bin Laden to stop Al Qaeda being quite similar to taking out Obama to stop the US military... wouldn't really have much of an effect... the most reason it would change it becase of the new guys policy (for both examples) but i imagine bin laden's no.2 and so on are going to be pretty similar guys...
    You think alQaeda is stoppable? It's a laterally-organized outfit, not a hierarchically-organized one. So, I agree: 'taking out' binLaden won't stop them. But getting him was the sole reason for this entire adventure in the first place.

    We had no reason to fight the Taliban, except that they were in charge of the region, and refused to deliver binLaden, who they said was their guest, and therefore protected by them, so we had to go through them to get him. Well, we got the "go through them" bit done, but never accomplished the mission of get-binLaden.

    Now that the distraction of Iraq is winding down, war-weary eyes turn to Afghanistan, and folks wonder what we're doing there, still. If the full force (minus nukes) of the militaries of the Western world can't track down and apprehend one guy, it's time to go home, and leave it to the spooks. In my opinion.

    Snag Osama, or go home. Building up Afghan infrastructure = not our job. And only facilitates the druglords, warlords and religiouslords there.
    Be well. Do good. Keep in touch.

  30. #30
    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afghanistan

    So what about the numerous people there that are trying to work for their country in a democratic way in order to improve their country, introduce more modern values etc. etc.? Leave them behind to get slaughtered/oppressed by returning taliban and warlords?

    The argument that cell phone towers will get bombed might be true, but how will the population react when their perfect new cellphone network gets bombed by their wannabe overlords who they were hiding from NATO all the time? Or are they ALL religious nutters down there?


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