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Thread: A suggestion for changing the course of the conflict on the Afghan/Pakistani frontier

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    Default A suggestion for changing the course of the conflict on the Afghan/Pakistani frontier

    This is an excerpt from an as yet unpublished article. Any comments - regardless of how harsh they might be - would be very much appreciated.
    All the best!


    The shear quantity and cost - in lives - of recent American incursions into Pakistani territory is not the kind of thing that - rationally - one could expect to be ignored - even by a friendly government - let alone one that had recently seemed on the brink of curtailing, or even ending, military cooperation. And, it is unlikely that even a tacit understanding on the governmental level - to allow such actions - could be long sustained in practice without broader support - particularly within the Pakistani Army.

    On the other hand, continued existence of safe areas from which the Taliban and other Terrorists factions can launch attacks on targets in Afghanistan with impunity - and then to which they can retreat to for safety - as well as where they can recruit, train and draw other support from generally - is intolerable. Some solution must be arrived at, one that allows American, Afghani and NATO forces to combat these factions more effectively and do so without tipping the political balance in Pakistan against us and towards a renewal of their efforts to develop a workable accord with our enemies.

    A suggestion for consideration in that discussion:
    reverse the nature of the incursions. I.e. allow and support Pakistani forces in operations - into their own country - based from sites on the Afghanistan side of the border. Besides the obvious - the possibility of reducing or eliminating the need for unauthorized American incursions into Pakistan - this approach may have other advantages. The enemy could be then attacked - unexpectedly - in greater force than that which can be obtained through periodic cross-border raiding - and from directions from which their current defensive preparations may be less suitable for effective resistance. Circumstances of that kind may also provide a solid basis for the renewal; and development of closer working ties between the Pakistani military and our own best ambassadors - the American Soldier, Marine, Sailor and Airmen. And, at some point it may then become possible for there to be cross border actions involving American, Afghani and NATO forces that are authorized - formally or in reply to requests from local Pakistani commanders. Pakistani units in a hard fight are unlikely to stand firm against offers of assistance. Therefore, instead of losing or reducing the cooperation of Pakistan - as the present course of action threatens to do - or worse, pushing the Pakistani government and military towards greater engagement with the Islamists - we may alternatively cement solid ties with the Pakistani military, connections that would likely go a long way towards moving the country as a whole into our corner. That possibility, along with that of an increase in tactical and strategic opportunities, may make this an attractive alternative to the current approaches
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-21-2008 at 08:06 PM. Reason: Remove unwanted text at request author

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Introduce yourself please

    QuietRaven,

    As a new SWC member please take time to introduce yourself, on the Tell Us About You: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...splay.php?f=33

    SWC members prefer to comment when they can read an introduction. That might get a better response to your first thread.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-21-2008 at 08:07 PM. Reason: Add text at author's request

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    Default Paki good will

    Not sure the Paki's have the political wherewithall to do that and there are some sticking points

    -the Pashtuns do not much care for the Pak gov,
    -the tribes on the other side of the border (in Pak) are Pashtun relatives
    -the Karzai gov probably does not have the political backing to support Pak troops on Afghan soil (any more than the Pak gov does to support US in Pak)

    However, the idea has a great deal of merit and if it is not being pursued now it should be.

    The Paki's have spend a great deal of blood since 9/11 trying to pacify this area, more than America has in Afghanistan by some numbers.

    Given their nuclear status, Paki cooperation on dismantling Al-Queda, and the nature of the Paki-Afghani relationship, I would hope that this type of approach has been explored in depth and the current ops are a reflection of the failure of all other options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    Not sure the Paki's have the political wherewithall to do that and there are some sticking points
    Thank you very much for your comments!
    And, I apologize for being so tardy with my reply .

    I realize that implementation of a project of this kind is anything but simple, the sympathy that all-too-many Pakistanis - including those in the PA and ISI - seem to have for the Islamists - being not the least of those.
    the Karzai gov probably does not have the political backing to support Pak troops on Afghan soil (any more than the Pak gov does to support US in Pak)

    However, the idea has a great deal of merit and if it is not being pursued now it should be.
    The following article may indicate that similar conceptions are being considered - and by the Karzai government in particular.
    Afghanistan Calls for Joint Border Patrol with Pakistan.

    And, thank you for the complement!

    The Paki's have spend a great deal of blood since 9/11 trying to pacify this area, more than America has in Afghanistan by some numbers.

    Given their nuclear status, Paki cooperation on dismantling Al-Queda, and the nature of the Paki-Afghani relationship, I would hope that this type of approach has been explored in depth and the current ops are a reflection of the failure of all other options.
    I tend to agree. But I've met with a great deal of skepticism from those who believe that the Pakistani government only acts out of a fear for American military reprisals when it orders action to be taken against the Islamists by the the PA and security forces, and, that there is some significant element of sham to the efforts that the PA and security forces claim to have made (and to be making) in that regards.

    I suspect that comments which express perspectives of that kind do little to motivate the Pakistanis towards continued efforts.

    Thank you again for your comments,
    and all the best to you and yours!
    Quiet Raven
    BTW: if you or others decide to make further comments on this thread - I will need to go offline early this even and stay off until Saturday night, due my Sabbath observance - Shabbat. I will try and reply to any additional comments at that time.
    Last edited by Quiet Raven; 10-03-2008 at 09:20 PM. Reason: to make the post more concise

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    Why doesnt the US try and seal the border itself. Sure, we can't make it impervious, but I'm betting a healthy US presence in this area would cut down a lot of cross border antics by the tribesmen.

    Key measure: if we build some sort of border defensive system and it immediately comes under attack from the Taliban/Pakis. Should that happen we will know we are doing something that is hurting them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 221CAV View Post
    Why doesnt the US try and seal the border itself. Sure, we can't make it impervious, but I'm betting a healthy US presence in this area would cut down a lot of cross border antics by the tribesmen.

    Key measure: if we build some sort of border defensive system and it immediately comes under attack from the Taliban/Pakis. Should that happen we will know we are doing something that is hurting them.
    Two words: manpower and terrain

    We are short on manpower and even with a couple or six BCTs that is not going to change.

    As a military goal, "sealing" this border area is a classic exercise in self-delusion. We can make it tougher, no doubt, if you can get the manpower required.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Two words: manpower and terrain
    To quote RTK, "The basics are the basics." COIN 101; you can't win if the insurgents have sanctuary. Somebody needs to solve the problem. If no one else can, that's why the president gets a big house and a taxpayer funded 747; we need him to solve the difficult problems.

    Personally, I think we need to establish population control in the tribal areas. Separating the foreign jihadis from the local tribes is a clear, straight froward objective. Much clearer and more straight forward than almost any strategic COIN related objective. Therefore it's achievable.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default How do you propose to do that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    Personally, I think we need to establish population control in the tribal areas. Separating the foreign jihadis from the local tribes is a clear, straight froward objective. Much clearer and more straight forward than almost any strategic COIN related objective. Therefore it's achievable.
    I realize you passed the buck to the Prez, whoever he or she may be but you must have an idea along that line or you wouldn't propose it...

    Your recommendation to implement your goal is?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    RA

    I agree the President has responsibility. That responsibility begins when you first consider putting troops at risk. Just saying it does not make it happen, the "it" being exporting democracy, declaring victory, or tackling hard problems like Afghanistan, a can we have been kicking down the road for some time.

    Elegant solutions are nice to talk about about but deceptive in that they propose simple solutions to complex problems. "Sealing" one of the earth's toughest borders, one across which the art of smuggling is exquisitely practiced is one. Controlling tribal lands is another. Which tribal areas are you proposing to control? Keep in mnd that they straddle the border. I have been hip deep in efforts to control populations when they straddle a border. It does not work unless you control or have the agreement of the governments that are supposed to control those borders. That might be "COIN 101"; COIN 601 comes in when you recognize the basics in 101 are not single solutions in and of themselves, neither are they always available for use. In our case regarding Afghanistan, COIN 601 says that there is little prospect of getting the Paks to fully control their half of the tribal lands when such controls have long been unacheived goals. By the same token, COIN 601 says that you are even less lilkely to muster the US will to expand cross border operations to the degree necessary to control the tribal lands on the Pak side of the border. And even if you did, you would be expanding the conflict beyond the sustainable.

    As Ken likes to say, "win" is too elagant and clean a word to even consider applying to this situation.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur
    To quote RTK, "The basics are the basics." COIN 101; you can't win if the insurgents have sanctuary. Somebody needs to solve the problem. If no one else can, that's why the president gets a big house and a taxpayer funded 747; we need him to solve the difficult problems.

    Personally, I think we need to establish population control in the tribal areas. Separating the foreign jihadis from the local tribes is a clear, straight froward objective. Much clearer and more straight forward than almost any strategic COIN related objective. Therefore it's achievable.
    Hi RA,
    In a SWJ blog last December titled "Can the Anbar Strategy Work in Pakistan?", Clint Watts illuminated three impediments to separating foreign Jihadis from the tribes:

    - "al-Qa’ida has operated in the tribal regions of Pakistan for more than two decades and today it is part of the region’s fabric, not an outsider"

    - Ideological fissures are small because "today there is a greater overlap between the Deobandi strain of Islam that the Taliban follows and the Salafism of al-Qa’ida"

    - Financial inducements are unlikely to work because the "tribes in Waziristan have already withstood six years of pressure from Musharraf and al-Qa’ida has more than twenty years worth of supply networks in the region"

    I believe foreign Jihadi's have also taken local wives in the 20+ years they have been visiting the tribal areas, further weaving themselves into the local fabric. Watts may or may not be right regarding the possible success of the Anbar model in Pakistan. But the point remains that separating foreign jihadis from the tribal areas of Pakistan is far from clear and straight forward.

    It may indeed be achievable, but the costs and unintended consequences may not make the juice worth the squeeze. Especially if it further destabilizes and fractures Pakistan, as some suggest it will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    As Ken likes to say, "win" is too elagant and clean a word to even consider applying to this situation.
    "Happy," I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don't have much faith in them and I am no exception --especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they're scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.

    - The Rum Diary, by Hunter S.Thompson
    In this case substitute "Happy, Love, Honest, and Strong" for "Win, Victory, Democracy, and Freedom", and "Punk, Cheap, and Phony" for "Morass, Expurgate, and Blowback".

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    Council Member Tacitus's Avatar
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    Default Do as we say, not as we do?

    Quote Originally Posted by 221CAV View Post
    Why doesn't the US try and seal the border itself. Sure, we can't make it impervious, but I'm betting a healthy US presence in this area would cut down a lot of cross border antics by the tribesmen.
    Our own country is either unable or unwilling to control substantial population movements on our own southern border. Yet we demand Pakistan and Afghanistan to do exactly that?

    Just how many US soldiers would it take to man that border for who knows how long? I'm betting quite a bit for a LONG time.
    No signature required, my handshake is good enough.

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    Default In their own words

    As my Pakistani colleagues continue to impress upon me, if we wish to solve our Al Qaeda/Bin Ladin problem in the FATA, then we must understand the complexity of the greater problems in the area and help them determine a holistic approach. Hopefully, this link will provide all of us with some greater insight.


    http://ipripak.org/papers/federally.shtml

    The process of political change in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan has been very slow. In the last about six decades, only a few political changes have taken place in the region. The most important, of course, being the extension of adult franchise in 1996 and the holding of direct elections to the 12 seats of lower house of the Parliament (National Assembly). This has no doubt brought a significant change in the socio-political life of the tribal people as for the first time the people, including the women, were given the right to directly elect their representatives. This has led to the undermining of the influence of traditional political leadership (Maliks) in the region. The extension of adult franchise to women has also created a new feeling of empowerment among the weak and underprivileged sections of the society.

    But the people of FATA are still denied some of the fundamental and basic political and legal rights, which are available to citizens of Pakistan in other areas under the Constitution. The political parties are banned in the region. The administrative, political and judicial structure of the areas is based on FCR, which is a legacy of British colonial rule. This is an arbitrary law under which absolute power is vested in the Political Agent. Till 1997 there was no appeal against the punishment awarded under FCR. But the superior courts are still barred from exercising their jurisdiction in the Tribal Areas.

    There are three main reasons for the lack of progress in the area of political development in FATA.

    First, the social system based on tribal loyalties and absolute power of tribal heads (Maliks) over the members of the tribe has remained intact over the centuries. The British perpetuated this system to serve their colonial interests granting special status and cash awards to the Maliks in exchange for duties and responsibilities for maintaining peace and security in the areas. The British had established a chain of military posts in the Tribal Areas to ensure the defence as well as the compliance of the tribal people; and whenever, the tribal people acted in violation of their commitments with the British authorities, military action was taken against them.

    Second, the successive governments of Pakistan, instead of establishing direct contact with the people at gross root level, continued to follow the British policy of dealing through the local tribal chiefs i.e., Maliks in the Tribal Areas. After 1947, the Tribal Areas became part of Pakistan. There was hope that the establishment of Pakistan would usher in a new era of progress and change in the lives of the tribal people. But these hopes did not come true as the new state continued to follow the policy of the British and took no step to change the status quo. The primary reason was Pakistan’s strained relations with Afghanistan. In view of Afghanistan’s hostile propaganda on the issue of Pashtunistan, the successive governments of Pakistan did not introduce any political change for fear of alienating the powerful and influential Maliks in the Tribal Areas. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, the support to Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation became the priority of Pakistan. The tribal Areas continued to suffer from neglect.

    Third, due to an attitude of neglect and a deliberate policy of maintaining status quo, the Tribal Areas remained as the most underdeveloped in terms of socio-economic indicators. Although new roads, schools, both for boys and girls, hospitals, and dispensaries were constructed during the last about six decades, the area remained grossly underdeveloped in comparison to the settled districts of the province. Due to lack of progress in the socio-economic fields, the process of political change in the Tribal Areas remained arrested.

    But recent events, like fall of Taliban in Afghanistan and the entry of Pakistan army to flush out the alleged foreign militants from South Wazirstan have acted as catalysts for socio-political change in the Tribal Areas. Since April last year about 70,000 Pakistan army troops have been deployed in areas close to border with Afghanistan to apprehend the foreign militants allied with former Taliban and Al Qaeda organizations. This is for the first time in the last 57 years that regular troops of Pakistan army have entered the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The army action has been followed by a massive programme for the socio-economic uplift of the Tribal Areas through the building of physical and social infrastructure, like roads, water reservoirs, hospitals, schools and telecommunication centers in all the agencies and regions of FATA. The development works in the area is certain to bring changes in the socio-political environment of the region.

    The federal government has also introduced the tribal version of Devolution Plan in FATA, establishing Agency Councils consisting of elected representatives of the tribal people. At the same time the demand for allowing the political parties to function in FATA is also being raised with rising voice by the Human Rights activists and civil society organizations. After 9.11 the Tribal Areas of Pakistan are witnessing rapid social, economic and political change.
    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Slight snags abound

    The cited report dates back to 2005 and little open source information shows that Pakistan has made progress with "soft" options in the FATA - although now a stated policy of the civilian government. Instead we have seen "hard" power being used, albeit in a "stop, go" manner.

    Open source information indicates that the local Pashtuns in the FATA have reacted badly to the recent US ground and air incursions - allegedly with ISI help.

    Not a good mix for either the public or politicians to understand. Add in "buckets" of wishful thinking / reporting.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Not the holy grail

    Just academic writing in their words. That's the point. I posted the article and website to show how the Pakistani academics view the problem. Yes, it is an older article, but the perceptions are what is important.

    I haven't been to either Afghanistan or Pakistan, but I learned in Iraq that the local's perceptions are much more the reality than any "truth" or "facts" we present.

    Yes, the FATA is still a major problem, but we've yet to define what the "problem" is. And no, neither the public nor the politician will every understand the "problem" b/c it will never be a 30 second soundbite.

    Slight snags will always abound when dealing with another culture. Personally, I found the website fascinating. It provides another perspective. IMO, coupled with Greg Mortesen's 3 Cups of Tea and US Army accounts, it gets us closer to defining what the problem is.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Default Pakistani websites

    MikeF and others,

    I am sure there are many websites, but to date I've only found a couple worth visiting:

    1) The Pakistani Security Research Unit, based at Bardford University (UK), combines UK and Pakistan-based academics / analysts: http://spaces.brad.ac.uk:8080/displa...63943ADAC1BB19

    2) Mixed view on this: http://pakistanpolicy.com/ not regularly updated sometimes.

    3) The latest and under test: http://watandost.blogspot.com/ and the author's booksite: http://pakistandrift.blogspot.com/ . Note Pakisatni author resides in the USA.

    Hope this helps

    davidbfpo

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    To answer Ken's question, the president has a number of carrots and sticks. I believe, "if you don't cooperate we'll bomb you into the stone age," did the trick after 9/11. "If you launch a true counterinsurgency campaign we will give you these things:... If you don't, we will bomb the hell out of your tribal regions" should do the trick. And my point is that if it isn't done things will get worse. Just like they continued to get worse in Iraq until we established population control.

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    Hi RA,
    In a SWJ blog last December titled "Can the Anbar Strategy Work in Pakistan?", Clint Watts illuminated three impediments to separating foreign Jihadis from the tribes:

    - "al-Qa’ida has operated in the tribal regions of Pakistan for more than two decades and today it is part of the region’s fabric, not an outsider"

    - Ideological fissures are small because "today there is a greater overlap between the Deobandi strain of Islam that the Taliban follows and the Salafism of al-Qa’ida"

    - Financial inducements are unlikely to work because the "tribes in Waziristan have already withstood six years of pressure from Musharraf and al-Qa’ida has more than twenty years worth of supply networks in the region"
    That's why you need to go into the village en masse, arrest all the foreigners and stay in the village for 15 years: clear and hold.



    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Open source information indicates that the local Pashtuns in the FATA have reacted badly to the recent US ground and air incursions.
    Of course they are. That's COIN 101. If we kill the bad guy, his wife and the rest of the tribe is going to get angry and seek revenge. The only solution is to put so many troops in the village that there is nothing the population can do to get revenge when you kill the bad guy. Then you spend 10 or 15 years trying to win hearts and minds.

    That's why the argument we can't afford to do it right so let's do it half assed doesn't make any sense. There is no half assed counterinsurgency. You either establish population control or make things worse by angering the population and increasing the insurgent recruitment rate.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 10-15-2008 at 09:48 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Sigh. At the risk of stating the obvious

    let me suggest that logical solutions occur to others as well as to ones self -- if they aren't being used, there may be a reason...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    To answer Ken's question, the president has a number of carrots and sticks. I believe, "if you don't cooperate we'll bomb you into the stone age," did the trick after 9/11. "If you launch a true counterinsurgency campaign we will give you these things:... If you don't, we will bomb the hell out of your tribal regions" should do the trick. And my point is that if it isn't done things will get worse. Just like they continued to get worse in Iraq until we established population control.
    Re: the first item -- do you know that or just think that might be the case? Re: the others, if the answers are "We'd like to but cannot;" and "If you do that we will have a rebellion which will make matters worse." What then will you do?
    That's why you need to go into the village en masse, arrest all the foreigners and stay in the village for 15 years: clear and hold.
    Where do you get the manpower and US political will to do that?
    Of course they are. That's COIN 101. If we kill the bad guy, his wife and the rest of the tribe is going to get angry and seek revenge. The only solution is to put so many troops in the village that there is nothing the population can do to get revenge when you kill the bad guy. Then you spend 10 or 15 years trying to win hearts and minds.

    That's why the argument we can't afford to do it right so let's do it half assed doesn't make any sense. There is no half assed counterinsurgency. You either establish population control or make things worse by angering the population and increasing the insurgent recruitment rate.
    Shame the Administration and the big Army didn't know that in 2001 -- but they did not.

    Did you know that then or have you learned it since like so many others?

    By the way, Afghanistan is not an insurgency...

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    Default Quiet Raven's Original Postq

    QR,

    Much of what you propose (i.e. combined operations with the PKMIL) have already been floated by the Pakistani's with them answering with a resounding 'NO'. They are not unlike any other people on this earth, and they do not see the value in having armed US forces patrolling inside their borders 'fixing' the Al Qaeda problem. Why this is unpopular inside Pakistan is endless, but again they are a soveriegn people who suspiciously view our activities in Afghanistan as yet another failed 'Great Game' attempt to mold a disparate group of tribals into a civilized western-like society. The Pakistani's know something we fail to admit with regards to Afghanistan and bringing democracy and civilized western values to them -- 'it ain't ever gonna' happen'

    Once we start developing a strategy that embraces this fact that the various tribal entities within that God foresaken hole will never embrace western culture and values with regards to basic law, human rights, woman's rights, religious freedoms, and education then we will move beyond this COIN strategy of trying to 'win their hearts and minds' and we will prop up an iron-fisted dictator (think Marcos, Tito, Suharto...our allies in the fight against Communism but instead today it's Terrorism) that will maintain relative peace and support our long term political and economic goals for that region.

    PT
    SENDS

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