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Afghanistan War Weekly: July 25, 2010

Having completed the transition from McChrystal to Petraeus, and having witnessed the “historic” conference of representatives of more than 60 nations in Kabul, what do we know? The only war aim that seems to unite the US/NATO Coalition is “get this thing over with as soon as possible.” But the generals are trapped and Obama is trapped, and therefore the NATO allies are trapped. As with Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, the war can’t be won, but withdrawal without “victory” threatens political disaster. Like Charles Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, everyone seems to be hoping that “something will turn up.”

US casualties are headed for a second record-breaking month, and the combined total for Iraq and Afghanistan war expenditures just passed the $1 trillion mark. Next week the congressional Democrats will have to vote on more funding for the war, unmediated by the traditionally helpful social programs that they have used in the past to justify their support for war appropriations.

General Petraeus now confronts several deadlines: the November NATO meeting in Lisbon, the December “progress report” demanded by the Obama war managers; and the July 2011 moment when US troops will begin to “draw down.” According to several sources, the US/NATO now appears to be willing to have President Karzai, etc. talk with the leadership of the armed opposition, going beyond the up-to-now policy of encouraging defections of rank-and-file Taliban, but forbidding discussions with Taliban and other armed opposition leadership. Also noted below is the increasing salience of dissatisfaction coming from the former components of the Northern Alliance, non-Pashtuns who are increasingly vocal in their objections to Karzai’s approach to the Taliban and other Pakistan-based forces.

It remains to be seen whether the insurgency in Kashmir will be sustained. Although currently pitting independent Kashmir nationalists against the Indian military, India will naturally regard Pakistan as the force behind the insurgency and may suffer consequences. NB especially Tariq Ali’s article on what’s behind the current events in Kashmir.

I would appreciate receiving suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice ( and War is a Crime (

----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)


Will House Dems Oppose a Jobless War Supplemental?

By Robert Naiman, CommonDreams [July 23, 2010]

---- The war supplemental for Afghanistan is expected to come back from the Senate to the House next week - without any kind of timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and without money to save teachers' jobs attached. … Labor unions had strongly backed the House Democratic effort to attach money to the supplemental to boost employment and avoid teacher layoffs. Will these unions now urge House Democrats to vote no on any jobless war supplemental? …What is in serious dispute is how many House Democrats will vote no on a jobless war supplemental. A large Democratic no vote would also send a strong signal of Democratic "no confidence" in the Pentagon's war plans, increasing pressure on the Administration to vigorously pursue a political resolution to the conflict and to establish a timetable for military withdrawal - as desired by the majority of Americans and three-quarters of Democrats, according to a recent CBS poll [2].

See also: Andrew Taylor, ”House pressured to pass stripped-down war measure,” Associated Press [July 23, 2010]

Petraeus Sharpens Afghan Strategy

By Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal

---- Gen. David Petraeus plans to ramp up the U.S. military's troop-intensive strategy in Afghanistan, according to some senior military officials, who have concluded that setbacks in the war effort this year weren't the result of the strategy, but of flaws in how it has been implemented. The officials said Gen. Petraeus, who took over as allied commander in Afghanistan this month and is conducting a review of the war, intends to draw on many of the same tactics he implemented to turn around the war in Iraq—and which his predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, introduced in Afghanistan. But the officials said Gen. McChrystal put too much attention on hunting down Taliban leaders, at the expense of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on protecting civilians and bolstering popular support for the government. Under Gen. Petraeus, the coming offensive in the southern city of Kandahar will remain the primary effort for international forces, military officials said. But he is also expected to highlight other operations that are showing success, particularly the campaign against the Haqqani terror network in eastern Afghanistan…. Gen. Petraeus has called on some of the outside advisers who helped him develop the surge strategy in Iraq to make recommendations on a renewed campaign in Afghanistan, according to military officials. Those advisers include Stephen Biddle, a national-security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and Kimberly Kagan, who heads the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

Kucinich Says White House Abused Its Power, Wants Forces Out of Pakistan

By Deb Weinstein, Truthout [July 23, 2010]

---- The five hundred million dollars in aid the US pledged to Pakistan this week is not the only backing the United States is providing the country considered an ally against terrorist elements. According to a statement by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the White House has increased its military commitment to Pakistan without Congressional oversight or approval. The White House's abuse of its authority, Kucinich says in his statement, "must stop." On Thursday evening, he and fellow House member Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced a privileged resolution to pull US forces from the country. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives the nod, the Kucinich-Paul resolution will jump the line of items before the House next week, right before Congress breaks for its August recess.

US Casualties in Afghanistan

According to the website, 19 US soldiers were killed last week, bringing the total for 2010 to 260. 1,206 killed since the war began. So far in July 2010, 58 US soldiers have been killed, with the total for the Coalition reaching 77. The number of US soldiers killed in June, 60, was the highest monthly total since the war began. According to the DoD monthly report, 517 US soldiers were wounded in June. Monthly US casualties have been running approximately twice what they were in 2009. Thirty-two US soldiers committed suicide in June, bringing the total for 2010 to 145.

Mental illness increases for US troops battling Iraqis and Afghans: Data

From The Nation [Pakistan] [July 23, 2010]

---- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on minds as well as bodies, statistics released by the U.S. Army indicate. The Army said the number of U.S. soldiers forced to leave the military because of mental disorders increased by 64 percent from 2005 to 2009, USA Today reported. Last year 1,224 soldiers received a medical discharge for mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder.The number accounts for one in nine medical discharges. The Pentagon reported in May that mental health disorders caused more hospitalizations among U.S. troops in 2009 than any other medical condition.

The Cost of the War
According to the website, the war in Afghanistan has cost more than $285 billion. The total cost of both wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, is now more than $1.021 trillion.

U.S. money wasted on Afghanistan projects, auditor finds

By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times [July 22, 2010]

---- A federal watchdog criticized U.S. agencies on Thursday for squandering taxpayer money on facilities in Afghanistan that are too complex and costly for the Afghan government to maintain. U.S. officials acknowledge that they plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to hire contractors to operate a complex of buildings in troubled Kandahar and other facilities in Afghanistan for the next 10 years. A federal auditor complained in a report that the buildings constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Afghan national police represent an "outrageous waste of taxpayer money." He said the problems are representative of a "regular negative pattern" in overly complex construction in the country. "Why in the world are we continuing to construct facilities all over Afghanistan that we know, and the Afghans know, they will not be able to sustain once we hand the facilities over?" asked Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.,0,4...

U.S. Checks Afghan Cash Flow

By Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal [July 22, 1010]

---- U.S. and Afghan authorities are setting up a joint task force to monitor the billions of dollars in cash flown out of Afghanistan every year, officials said, as the U.S. announced debt-relief for the war-ravaged country. U.S. and Afghan officials say they believe at least some of the money leaving the country comes from corruption and opium trafficking. The scope of the money flow, first reported last month by The Wall Street Journal, has prompted U.S. and Afghan officials to investigate whether aid and reconstruction money is being diverted. Officials also say they believe some of the money is proceeds from the illicit opium trade and cash earned by the Taliban through extortion and drug trafficking. Widespread corruption has long undermined public support for Afghanistan's government. The effort to clamp down on the money flow is seen as vital to a war effort that is now focused on building the credibility of the Afghan government.

A Really Big Show: Bigwigs Gather in Kabul... for What, Exactly?

By Phyllis Bennis, Huffington Post [July 22, 2010]

---- This week the State Department bragged about the really important conference on the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan held in Kabul, hosted by the Afghan president and including dozens of international political leaders. So why was it relegated to page 10 of the New York Times and the equivalent in most of the mainstream media? The answer is actually pretty simple: It just wasn't that important. Most of the decisions Hillary Clinton was so proud of were old news: The Afghan government will fight corruption and build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) better! The U.S. and other NATO countries will train the ANA! The U.S. will help the Afghan government fight corruption! Why should anyone think these plans will work any better this time around? Then there was the other problem: The new stuff they did decide on at the conference wasn't anything anyone wanted to brag about. Karzai's government is still impossibly corrupt, but the U.S. and other donors are now promising to give 50 percent of the billions in aid money directly to that government. Who wants to trumpet that at a press conference?

See also: Kim Sengupta, ”Throwing cash at a corrupt government shows how the West is desperate for an exit,” The Independent The official conference communique can be read at

Kabul Faces Severe Water Crisis

By John Vidal, The Guardian [July 19, 2010]

---- Kabul and its surrounding region are perilously short of water and may not be able to supply a fast-growing, more affluent population, a joint US and Afghan government scientific report has warned.

Rapid population growth and expected temperature rises due to climate change mean the area – which just manages to support 6 million people today – will need six times more water by 2050, the US Geological Survey report says. According to current United Nations estimates, Kabul's population could reach 9 million by 2050.

After years of rebuilding, most Afghans lack electricity

From the Associated Press [July 19, 2010]

---- The goal is to transform Afghanistan into a modern nation, fueled by a U.S.-led effort pouring $60 billion into bringing electricity, clean water, jobs, roads and education to this crippled country. Poppy fields thrive, with each harvest of illegal opium fattening the bankrolls of terrorists and drug barons. Passable roads remain scarce and unprotected, isolating millions of Afghans who remain cut off from jobs and education. Electricity flows to only a fraction of the country's 29 million people.

(Video) Riz Khan - Afghanistan: Cash and corruption

From AlJazeeraEnglish [July 20, 2010] – 23 minutes

---- Just 12 months before US forces are to begin withdrawing, what hope is there for progress in Afghanistan? We speak with Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan finance minister and presidential candidate, about what it will take to turn the country around and how much longer Afghanistan can cunt on international support.

White House shifts Afghanistan strategy towards talks with Taliban

Ewen MacAskill and Simon Tisdall, The Guardian [UK] [July 19, 2010]

---- The White House is revising its Afghanistan strategy to embrace the idea of negotiating with senior members of the Taliban through third parties – a policy to which it had previously been lukewarm. Negotiating with the Taliban has long been advocated by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the British and Pakistani governments, but resisted by Washington. The Guardian has learned that while the American government is still officially resistant to the idea of talks with Taliban leaders, behind the scenes a shift is under way and Washington is encouraging Karzai to take a lead in such negotiations. A source with knowledge of the process said: "There is no agreed US position, but there is agreement that Karzai should lead on this. They would expect the Pakistanis to deliver the Haqqani network in any internal settlement."

Taliban talks: the obstacles to a peace deal in Afghanistan
Jon Boone, The Guardian

---- On the fringes of the conference the hot topic is a subject that is barely mentioned in the draft and until recently eschewed by the US administration; making peace with the Taliban. That's because despite the fact that the Afghan government is finally strong enough to organise its own conference, the prospect of that government ultimately prevailing over an ever stronger insurgency has never looked more bleak. …Hamid Karzai's so far fairly limited appeals to the Taliban, not least during his "peace jirga" in June, have lost the Afghan president the support of some of the few political powerbrokers who backed him that are not from the Pashtun ethnic group, from which the Taliban draws most of its support.

See also: Joshua Partlow, “Minority leaders leaving Karzai’s side over leader’s overtures to insurgents,” Washingtono Post [July 23, 2010].

US blacklists Taliban associates

From Aljazeera [July 23, 2010]

---- The United States has designated as "terrorists" three men who allegedly help raise funds and manage finances for the Taliban and the Pakistan-based Haqqani network. …While Omar's "Quetta Shura" has shown some interest in negotiating with the Afghan government, the Haqqani network is considered more radical with strong ties to the Pakistani intelligence services. Some analysts say that Pakistan is reticent to dismantle the Haqqani network, which is based in the country's restive North Waziristan province, because it views the Haqqanis as a strategic asset against Indian influence in Afghanistan and worries that doing so could trigger a revolt in the northwest tribal areas.

Militants will not be paid to quit Afghan Taliban

From The Independent [UK] [July 23, 2010]

---- The Independent has learned that the process of persuading insurgents to change sides will be markedly different from the blueprint used in Iraq, where fighters were paid by the US to turn their guns on other insurgents. Instead, the scheme for Afghanistan stipulates that militant groups who cross over will not get any immediate financial rewards or be pulled into the security forces. The fighters will have their personal details biometrically recorded, while their weaponry would be registered but not impounded. Talking to the Taliban was one of the key issues discussed at this week's Kabul conference. The international community will provide $180m (£120m) for the plan, with $100m coming from the US and $50m from Japan. The UK has promised another $7m, with more funds expected to follow after the Government announced that it was diverting $40m of international aid to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan copter crash kills 2 U.S. service members

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times [July 23, 2010]

---- Two U.S. service members were killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Helmand province, the third fatal chopper crash in the south of Afghanistan in less than two months. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the aircraft. The NATO force said an investigation was underway and that hostile fire could not be ruled out. American military deaths in Afghanistan are running at the highest level of the nine-year war. A record 60 U.S. service members were killed last month, and the latest fatalities bring July's tally to at least 49. Two NATO helicopters were lost in June; one was shot down and the other had mechanical problems. Both of those deadly crashes also took place in the Taliban heartland, where the majority of Western military casualties occur.

(Video) US casualties on rise in Afghan war

From AlJazeeraEnglish [July 24, 2010]

---- On Saturday four US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Southern Afghanistan. The deaths bring to 396 the toll of foreign soldiers killed so far this year, compared to 520 for all of 2009.The website puts the number of soldiers to have died since the Afghan insurgency began in 2001 at 1,964, with 1,204 of them Americans.Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher has been on patrol with US troops in the Arghandab river valley, used by the Taliban to stage attacks in neighbouring Kandahar.
He reports on the perseverance of the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers.

Death comes from far away in Afghan valley

By Rob Taylor, Reuters [July 19, 2010]

---- Private Brandon King was standing regular guard duty in a watchtower near Charqulba village in southern Afghanistan when he was killed by a single shot that was anything but normal. King was hit in the head from long range, raising fears that foreign fighters with exceptional skills may have reinforced local Taliban as U.S. troops prepare an assault on insurgent strongholds, the area's U.S. battalion commander said. King's unit was based just outside Charqulba at Combat Outpost Nolen, now experiencing daily attacks from insurgents operating out of the deserted village below. Local people have long since fled the fighting. The Arghandab river valley is critical to the upcoming NATO and U.S. battle in Kandahar city to the southeast, as insurgents there have been able to slip into the city using its fertile grape and pomegranate fields for cover. Southern Arghandab's farmlands are the district's last cover and concealment zone, in a maze of mud-walled villages known to U.S. commanders as "the triangle".

Going old school: U.S. Army Special Forces return to the villages

By Austin Long, Foreign Policy [July 21, 2010]

---- The shooting yesterday of two American civilians by a suspected Afghan National Army instructor at a shooting range in northern Afghanistan has thrown into sharp relief one of the challenges of trying to quickly build effective Afghan security forces capable of securing the country. In part as a response to the slow growth in size and competence of the Afghan National Army and Police, the past year has seen a growing international effort to create security at the village level in Afghanistan by working directly with villagers. This effort has been through both formal programs such as the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) and less formal ones such as support reportedly given to members of the Shinwari tribe in the Achin district of Nangarhar. Perhaps the most ambitious and controversial of these efforts is the Local Defense Initiative (LDI), a program created and run by Special Forces. In early June I was in Afghanistan to conduct research on LDI, including lengthy conversations with several special operations commanders responsible for these operations. Most importantly, I was able to spend six days embedded with a joint special operations-local defense team in the Khakrez district of Kandahar.

See also: Mathieu Lefevre, Local Defence in Afghanistan: A Review of government-backed initiatives [March 2010] – 23 pages -

Friction among Afghans looms as challenge in south

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press [July 22, 2010]

---- Lt. Col. Abdul Hadi, a police commander in Kandahar city, is a burly, bearded man who speaks quickly and bluntly. And he didn't mince words during a meeting with a young U.S. Army officer overseeing an infusion of elite Afghan security forces in his district. "Most of the people here, they wear turbans, but they are not Talib," Hadi said, using the singular for Taliban. "But they're being searched like they are Talibs." Hadi's remarks point to a dilemma for U.S. forces. Ordinary Afghan police are widely seen as corrupt and ineffective. But a U.S. plan to have the better trained Afghan National Civil Order Police, or ANCOP, take the lead in curbing violence in this Taliban stronghold of half a million people could risk alienating the ultimate prize — the residents. Local police chiefs like Hadi resent the reinforcements, saying they're outsiders who don't know the people or the neighborhoods. And the residents are angry over searches and checkpoints that make them feel as though they're the enemy.

U.S. to unveil large aid package to win the hearts of Pakistanis

Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers [July 19, 2010]

---- The U.S. will announce Monday hundreds of millions of dollars worth of civilian aid projects for Pakistan, American officials said, in an attempt to demonstrate that Washington has broadened its relationship with the country, away from just anti-terror cooperation to helping the people of Pakistan. The aid comes as a result of controversial and much-delayed U.S. legislation, known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which allocated $1.5 billion a year to Pakistan for the next five years. Although the legislation appeared to make the funding contingent on Pakistan cracking down on terrorist groups, those funds are now ready to be dispersed, Clinton will say.

U.S. Forces Step Up Pakistan Presence

By Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal [July 19, 2010]

---- U.S. Special Operations Forces have begun venturing out with Pakistani forces on aid projects, deepening the American role in the effort to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistani territory that has been off limits to U.S. ground troops. The expansion of U.S. cooperation is significant given Pakistan's deep aversion to allowing foreign military forces on its territory. In June 2008, top U.S. military officials announced 30 American troops would begin a military training program in Pakistan, but it took four months for Pakistan to allow the program to begin. Today, the U.S. has about 120 trainers in the country.

Afghanistan builds up strategic partnership with Pakistan

By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [July 21, 2010]

---- A transit trade deal reached by the two neighbors Sunday is the latest milestone in a rapidly changing relationship long characterized by distrust and ill will -- and one that could have broad consequences for how they confront their shared Taliban insurgency. Officials from both countries now speak with marked optimism about the prospects for collaboration. Pakistani officials trace the improvement in ties to 2008, after the departure of President Pervez Musharraf, who had a troubled relationship with Karzai. Three weeks ago, Karzai agreed to send Afghan military officers across the border to be trained by the Pakistani military. Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, told reporters in Kabul that the first batch of 20 Afghan officers would leave for Pakistan soon.

Pakistan’s Military Leader Reappointed
[FB – The reappointment of General Kayani as the head of the Pakistan army is significant. For the last 60 years the army chief has served only one three-year term. Kayani’s reappointment further strengthens the role of the Army, already the dominant force in Pakistan.]

Pakistan extends powerful army chief's term for 3 years

Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers [July 23, 2010]

---- The Pakistani government on Thursday gave the country's top military official, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, another three years in his post, a move that analysts said would bolster Pakistan's anti-terrorism fight and cement its role in neighboring Afghanistan. In a nation with a history of military coups, the civilian government's decision will further enhance the power of the army chief, who leads Pakistan's dominant institution. Policy toward the U.S., Afghanistan and India is run largely out of the military headquarters in Rawalpindi. Counter-terrorism also remains in the hold of the military, through its Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Kayani is a former chief of the ISI, which many say secretly backed the Afghan Taliban even after the country's official policy was to turn against them after 2001.

See also: Alex Rodriguez, “General Kayani to remain in post,” Los Angeles Times [July 22, 2010] and Omar Waraich, “A general tightens his grip on power in Pakistan,” The Independent [UK] [July 24, 2010]

Uprising in Kashmir
Kashmir: Not Crushed, Merely Ignored

By Tariq Ali, London Review of Books [July 22, 2010]

---- On 11 June this year, the Indian paramilitaries known as the Central Reserve Police Force fired tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who were themselves protesting about earlier killings. One of the canisters hit 17-year-old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo on the head. It blew out his brains. As I write, the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, and several other towns are under strict military curfew. Whenever it is lifted, however briefly, young men pour out onto the streets to protest and are greeted with tear gas. In most of the province there has been an effective general strike for more than three weeks. An ugly anti-Muslim chauvinism accompanies India’s violence. It has been open season on Muslims since 9/11, when the liberation struggle in Kashmir was conveniently subsumed under the war on terror and Israeli military officers were invited to visit Akhnur military base in the province and advise on counter-terrorism measures. Their advice was straightforward: do as we do in Palestine and buy our weapons. In the six years since 2002 New Delhi had purchased $5 billion-worth of weaponry from the Israelis, to good effect.

See also two videos: Riz Khan, “Kashmir: Cycle of Violence,” Aljazeera [July 21, 2010] [23 minutes].; and Democracy Now! “Killings in Kashmir by Indian Forces Spark Protests,” [July 21, 2010[ [9 minutes]. Both videos feature Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer, author of Curfewed Night: A Frontline Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir, a very interesting book, imo.

Plan to begin Afghan security handover this year dropped

Jon Boone, The Guardian [July 20, 2010]

---- Plans to begin handing control of provinces in Afghanistan to Afghan security forces by the end of this year have been quietly dropped amid fears among European countries that General David Petraeus, the new US commander in the country, is less committed to a speedy transfer of power. The change of tack, revealed in the final communique from today's historic international conference in Kabul, reflects Petraeus's concerns that security conditions in Afghanistan are too weak for a transition of power to begin as quickly as originally planned, a Nato official told the Guardian. Although the conference agreed that the security needs of the entire country will have to be met by the Afghan army and police by 2014, major European troop contributors were looking forward to more rapid progress in the relatively stable north and west of the country, where Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and others have personnel. But in the final agreement of the conference, a reference to transition taking place on a "province-by-province" basis, which appeared in an earlier draft, had been removed.

UK troops could start leaving Afghanistan next year, says Cameron

The Guardian [UK] [July 21, 2010]

---- The prime minister said he would set out plans to hand over areas of Afghanistan to local control at a Nato summit in November. He said: "We are going to set out at the Lisbon Nato conference the steps that are going to be taken for transitioning from Nato control to Afghan control districts and provinces of Afghanistan.” A Nato official said the change reflected Petraeus's wish to slow the pace of the transfer of power. European powers had wanted to announce which provinces would be handed over at a summit of foreign ministers in Lisbon in November. "Petraeus is trying to slow everything down, pushing back any announcement of transition until 2011," the diplomat said.

Canada getting ahead of itself in race to escape Kandahar

By Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail [Canada] [July 22, 2010]

---- Everyone wants to leave Afghanistan, starting soon. So the international community, including Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, rushed to endorse an Afghan government plan to take more control of the country and its security. But Canadian policies don’t fit the plan. The whole theme of Tuesday’s Kabul conference was exit strategy, and its conclusions argued for something to which Canada hasn’t yet committed: a post-2011 role for training Afghan troops. Politicians who want hundreds of Canadian military trainers to stay in Afghanistan after next summer, both Conservatives and Liberals, believe the conference gives that plan new impetus. …But in practice Ottawa is wary about many of the things that the Kabul conference agreed upon.


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