LONDON (Reuters) - Hardfought gains by NATO troops this year could be lost in coming months if Afghan forces fail to hold ground seized from the Taliban, the NATO commander in Afghanistan said in an interview broadcast on Friday.
U.S. General Dan McNeill, who commands the alliance's 35,000-strong force, said NATO had scored successes this year in driving Taliban fighters from mountain valleys in the southern Helmand province, an opium-producing Taliban heartland.
The NATO forces in the area are mostly British troops who arrived in large numbers only last year. They say they have recaptured much of the Helmand River valley from the Taliban over the past six months.
But McNeill said Afghan troops had not yet performed as well as hoped in holding the ground after it was cleared, and there was a chance the Taliban could regroup and return.
"We are likely to have to do some of this work again," he told Britain's BBC radio in an interview.
"I think there is some chance of that because the Afghan national security forces have not been as successful in holding as we would like them to be."
"It would nice if the Afghan national security force could hold it, then there's less of a chance we'll have to do it again."
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New efforts to free Red Cross workers in Afghanistan
by Mohammad Yaqob Fri Sep 28, 10:32 AM ET
GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AFP) - Afghan negotiators worked to secure the release of four Red Cross workers, two of them foreigners, who were captured during a mission to free a German kidnapped by Taliban.
Contact had been made with the group that seized the men on Wednesday in the province of Wardak, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kabul, said the governor of Sayed Abad district where they were taken.
"We are in contact with the kidnappers via tribal elders and influentials," said the district governor, Anayatullah Mangal.
Mangal gave no details of the abductors whom he described Thursday as "armed thieves."
Spokesmen for the hardline Islamic Taliban movement, which has kidnapped several Afghans and foreigners in Afghanistan, initially flatly denied their network was involved.
But one, Zabihullah Mujahid, said Friday that the movement was still getting in touch with all its allies in Wardak province to see if any were involved.
"We have contacted almost all mujahedin (holy fighters) active in Wardak area and they reported that they don't know yet who abducted the Red Cross employees," he told AFP.
"But we still cannot totally rule out the possibility they might have been kidnapped by some Taliban group."
Mujahid said that if Taliban had captured the International Committee of the Red Cross men, they would be immediately released with no conditions.
"The Red Cross has a good background in Afghanistan and we must cooperate with them. They must not be harmed by any side of the conflict," he said.
Mangal said the Red Cross had asked authorities to refrain from military action to free the four for their own safety.
"The issue must be solved via mediation through tribal elders," he said.
The ICRC has not said the men were kidnapped but only that they were "detained" while driving back to Kabul after their mission in Wardak, where the 62-year-old German engineer and five Afghans were captured 10 weeks ago.
Besides the two Afghans, one of the men was from Myanmar and another from Macedonia, the global group, which has been in Afghanistan since 1987 towards the end of the Russian occupation.
"We are in contact with all the involved parties," spokeswoman Graziella Leite Piccolo said in Kabul. An "armed group" was involved in the abduction, she said, without elaborating.
The incident comes after a string of abductions of foreigners in Afghanistan, some claimed by the insurgent Taliban movement and some blamed on criminals seeking ransom.
The ICRC has played crucial roles in facilitating the release of some of the Taliban's other hostages, including 21 South Korean Christian aid workers captured mid-July and released in August.
The 21 were freed after talks between the rebels and Seoul that were facilitated by the Red Cross. Before the negotiations, the Taliban killed two other South Korean hostages.
The insurgent movement, which was in government until late 2001, said afterwards it would kidnap more foreign nationals as abductions were an effective way to pressure the Afghan government and its international allies.
A Bangladeshi national with a development organisation was abducted in Logar province, adjoining Wardak and Kabul provinces, on September 15 and has not been released.
The Taliban have not claimed involvement and his captors appear to be criminals after ransom.
Afghan police announced Friday, meanwhile, that they had freed two employees of the government's rural development ministry who were abducted in the southern province of Nimroz with their driver 15 days ago.
Counter-terrorism police had "put pressure" on the kidnappers through local leaders and were able to arrest five people involved in the kidnapping, Nimroz province police chief Mohammad Daud Askaryar said.
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One of kidnapped engineers killed, say Taliban
KANDAHAR CITY, Sept 27 - (Pajhwok Afghan News) - One of the four engineers and doctors kidnapped in the southern Zabul province has been killed, a Taliban commander said late Thursday.
The engineer was killed yesterday, said the militant commander, who did not cite any reason for the slaying. The source, in an exclusive chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, refused to answer queries as to the fate of the remaining captives.
Gulab Shah Alikhel, secretary to the Zabul governor, confirmed the engineer had been kidnapped on Wednesday from the Peace Bridge locality near Qalat. He said efforts were on to recover the remaining kidnappees.
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Netherlands gets no help from allies, sends 80 more troops to Afghanistan
By The Associated Press
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - The Netherlands is sending 80 more soldiers to support its own mission in Afghanistan after getting no help from other countries.
Wouter Bos, the deputy prime minister, says the additional troops will be deployed on a temporary basis.
This will bring the Dutch contingent in Afghanistan to 1,745 troops, who are operating in the southern province of Uruzgan.
The Netherlands had asked NATO for reinforcement. But when no other allies came forward, the Dutch decided to send the 80 additional troops themselves.
Bos says the increase should not be seen as a signal that the Netherlands will extend its mission in Afghanistan, due to expire next summer.
A decision on whether to extend the mission is expected next month.
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Canada defends policy on Afghan clans
GRAEME SMITH - From Friday's Globe and Mail September 28, 2007
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Canada will not immediately try to douse the anger that flared up this week in a village near Kandahar city after two religious teachers were killed in their homes, a military officer says, in a case that reveals the way Canadian forces are handling rebellious tribes.
The raid by foreign soldiers that left two mullahs dead on Wednesday was only the latest reason for upset in the village of Senjaray, a suburb of Kandahar city. Almost all of the people who protested in the hours afterward were members of the Alizai tribe, a group that often feels disenfranchised by the new government. They claim they're denied reconstruction projects and shut out of positions of influence in the local administration.
A Canadian official confirmed yesterday that some of the Alizais' complaints have a factual basis. Villages considered hostile to the government are shut out of assistance programs in the hope they will become more compliant, and that policy won't change just because the Alizais are shouting “death to Canada” in the streets, said Lieutenant Derrick Farnham, a civilian-military liaison officer at Canadian headquarters in Kandahar.
“We try very hard not to be reactionary, to go and quell anger and solve it immediately,” Lt. Farnham said. “That's something that has been done in the past, and it's been termed the ‘great game' in Afghanistan, where locals play one side off the other in terms of getting treats and gifts, and that's something we want to avoid.”
The Canadian civilian-military co-operation unit, known as Cimic, is responsible for handing out valuable reconstruction contracts, and the bundles of cash often represent the first benefits of government control that villagers experience after the Taliban have been driven away.
The Cimic team has mapped the districts west of Kandahar according to their alignment with the government and concentrated on helping villages that seem most eager to co-operate, Lt. Farnham said, on the theory that disgruntled villages will envy the money dished out to their pro-government neighbours and try to emulate them.
This strategy of reinforcing good behaviour runs against the historical methods that foreign powers have used to subdue the restive tribes of Afghanistan, the lieutenant said. The British and the Soviets both tried to buy off their enemies, he said, but the benefits didn't last and both empires eventually failed to secure the country.
“We don't want to be in a situation where we're just seen as bribing people who have a grudge against us,” he said.
“When we make progress, it's sometimes described as glacial. It can't be fast, and it probably wouldn't be best to be fast. It has to be small steps that are steadily forward.” He acknowledged that the Canadian strategy might aggravate anti-government sentiment among some tribesmen, but added that it's impractical to launch projects in areas where they're not welcome.
“It may harden attitudes,” he said. “But we are not invited into many areas. We have tried to go into some areas, we have tried to do development there, but we're not wanted.” Besides projects, the Canadians can also help by listening to villagers' concerns, he added.
“Just giving them a forum can really count,” Lt. Farnham said, although he said he isn't aware of any plans to hold meetings with the people who protested this week.
The protests have set back Canadian attempts to build trust among the people who live near a strategic stretch of highway outside Kandahar city, another military official said.
“You can build it [confidence] for 100 days and in one afternoon you can lose it all,” he said.
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Fazl urges US to takeout forces from Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, Sep 28 (Online): Deputy Secretary General Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Opposition leader in the National Assembly Maulana Fazl-u-Rehman has categorically stated that peace in Afghanistan can not be possible without expulsion of foreign forces from there.
War is not a solution to eliminate terrorism from tribal areas of the country and war ravaged country of Afghanistan, he said this while talking to US Ambassador in Pakistan Anne W. Peterson here in the Parliament House on Friday.
During the meeting, they discussed issues related to war against terrorism and overall political situation of the country. Fazal urged US to give priority to talks instead of using power, as it is a best possible option for the elimination of terrorism and extremism.
The best and stable Afghanistan is in best interest of Pakistan, he said. Opposition leader in the National Assembly added people living in Afghanistan including Taliban should be taken into confidence before making any decision.
US should give grant for education, health and development in tribal areas of the country. Peace in Afghanistan cannot be possible till expulsion of foreign forces from there, as Afghanis consider forces as their enemies.
Fazal-u-Rehman said his party in playing major role in Politics of Pakistan. We are not against any party. We will welcome Benazir Bhutto and Mian Muhammad Nawaz upon their return to the country, he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Anne W. Peterson said US also want Peace in Afghanistan and leave from Afghanistan. NATO does not want to stay in Afghanistan for long time, she added. She admitted Islam is a religion of peace and abhors every type of terrorism. US want free, fair and transparent elections in Pakistan to be participated by all parties, she maintained.
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US Ambassador calls on Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman
Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)
ISLAMABAD, Sep 28 (APP): The leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has said that Pakistan wants peaceful resolution of all the problems confronting the world and believes that war or use of force was no solution to any problem.
He said this while talking to US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson who called on him in the Parliament House here Friday.
Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman said that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan because a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan.
He said that political and economic instability in Afghanistan casts bad impact on Pakistan.
He said that US should concentrate on economic and social sector development in Afghanistan and the Tribal Area of Pakistan.
Maulana Fazal-ul-Rehman said that for durable peace and permanent settlement in Afghanistan, the engagement of people in the process of talks and developmental activities was a must.
He underlined the need for early evacuation of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman said that Islam was a religion of peace and “we as Muslim believe in peaceful coexistence, dialogue and tolerance.”
He said “I have always stood for peace and tolerance in national and international affairs.”
The US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson said that US wanted peace in Afghanistan and to leave the country as soon as peace was established there.
“We want to develop Afghanistan and continue economic development activities only”, she said.
She said that US has very positive image about Islam and any evil talk about Islam hurts us very much.
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Attacks by Taliban increase, approach Afghanistan capital
Seen capitalizing on public concern, weak government
By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post | September 28, 2007 via The Boston Globe
KABUL, Afghanistan - Preying on a weak government and rising public concerns about security, the Taliban are enjoying a military resurgence in Afghanistan and are now staging attacks just outside the capital, according to Western diplomats, private security analysts, and aid workers.
Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts Of particular concern, private security and intelligence analysts said, is the new reach of the Taliban to the provinces ringing Kabul, headquarters for thousands of international security troops. Those troops are seeking to shore up the government of President Hamid Karzai, help stabilize the country, find Osama bin Laden, and rebuild a nation deeply scarred by almost three decades of warfare. So far, they have had only mixed success.
"The Taliban ability to sustain fighting cells north and south of Kabul is an ominous development and a significant lapse in security," said a recent analysis by NightWatch, an intelligence review written by John McCreary, a former top analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
While the number of attacks around the capital has been small compared with the number of attacks in other areas of the country, McCreary wrote, the data showed that the Taliban this summer "held the psychological initiative. They still lack the ability to threaten the government, but moved closer to achieving it than they have in six years."
Analyses by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a project funded by the European Commission to advise private aid groups about security conditions across the country, found "a significant monthly escalation in conflict" in the first half of the year. Attacks by armed opposition groups increased from 139 in January to 405 in July, according to the project's director, Nic Lee.
"Every month there's a 20 to 25 percent increase in offensive activity," he said, adding that attacks in June and July were 80 percent to 90 percent higher than in the same period last year, showing a general escalation in the conflict, rather than seasonal fluctuations.
"Attacks have spread across the entire southeast border area, with a rapid escalation in the east, and in the last four months in the center" around Kabul as well, Lee said. "These guys have the strategic intent to take back the country."
NATO and US officials have not released their own statistics about attack trends, but they dispute the notion that the Taliban are significantly expanding operations from their traditional base in the south or that Afghanistan is sliding backward.
US Army General Dan K. McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, said much of the activity attributed to the Taliban and other militant groups probably was not part of the antigovernment insurgency, but probably was related to criminal activity, narcotics trafficking, and tribal disputes. And in some cases, he said, levels of conflict are up because more NATO, US, and Afghan forces are pushing into areas of the country where they had never operated. There are an estimated 50,000 international troops Afghanistan, about half of them American.
"Logic tells you the number of incidents you report are going to be increased," he said.
The Taliban's use of guerrilla warfare tactics - particularly suicide attacks and roadside bombings - is on the rise, largely because the insurgents cannot challenge foreign security forces through conventional means, McNeill said. About 60 percent of Afghanistan - a country slightly smaller than Texas and with 32 million people - experiences on average less than one significant security event a week, he said, although "the south and the east are clearly exceptions."
The rise in attacks reflects "acts of desperation," said Humayun Hamidzada, the spokesman for Karzai. "If you go and blow up 20 civilians, what does it show? Does it show strength? It shows their weakness. It's no resurgence. It's just showing who they really are."
The Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and promulgated a harsh and often unorthodox brand of Islamic law. The group intimidated and brutalized citizens, particularly women, destroyed Afghan culture, isolated the country internationally, and allowed it to become a base for bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which planned out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, in part, from camps in Afghanistan.
Following the attacks, US-led forces invaded Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban, and began an intense manhunt for bin Laden, who remains at large.
In the aftermath of the invasion, senior American, Afghan, and Pakistani officials described the Taliban as a spent force. Today, that assessment is widely doubted.
"The question is, were they ever defeated, and I don't think they ever were," McNeill said.
Many analysts say they believe the Taliban continue to draw support from elements in Pakistan, an assertion hotly disputed by the government in Islamabad. The consensus among independent intelligence analysts is that the Taliban leadership is headquartered in Quetta, Pakistan.
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Goodbye Stinky, Dry Latrines
By Aparna Srivastava Reddy
KABUL, Sep 28 (IPS) - The pervasive smell of human ordure is warning enough that this is a city that badly needs a sanitation system.
Rapid development -- and the immigration it attracts -- has seen the population of Afghanistan’s historic capital multiply from one million to about 4.5 million over the past five years, explains Rohullah Aman, Kabul’s mayor.
Kabul’s existing sanitation system, consisting largely of dry latrines emptying into underground storage vaults, can no longer cope because of sheer population pressure and because accumulated waste is no longer being emptied regularly.
When Kabul was a thinly-populated town, it was feasible and safe for donkey carts to carry the waste out of town, explains Ghulam Sakhi Noorzad, former mayor and now advisor at the presidential palace. Rapid urbanisation, high population density and lack of proper roads have made this practice infeasible. In fact, there are no donkey carts on the roads of Kabul today.
A few garbage trucks struggle to get the job done but are far from adequate, says Mumtaz Omarzai, a young sanitation engineer. For the dry vault system to work there must be a market for the waste and that market is shrinking fast as the farmers who use it for manure are selling off their lands, making way for an expanding city, he adds.
Little wonder then that a foul stench persists over the dusty streets and that the Kabul river, once famed for its sparkling, snow-fed waters, has turned into a giant open sewer. And, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), this is the reason why diarrhoeal diseases abound. According to Kabul municipality officials, less than five percent of the households have sewer connections. Most people use the dry vault toilets that are also common in much of Central Asia and China. However, the men generally prefer open areas and it is the women and small children who use the household toilets.
Sewer lines are costly to build in Kabul’s hilly terrain and a lack of water supply and power rule them out anyway. Pit latrines and septic tanks are not an option because the water can easily leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater -- on which the residents depend on, almost exclusively, for their water supply.
However, a new experiment in modern, sustainable and eco-friendly toilet systems, evolved in neighbouring India, is proving effective in the Afghan capital.
Popularly known as the Sulabh technology this ‘twin pit’ system uses very little water. The two pits are used alternately and an attached biogas digester produces methane from the waste that can be burned for lighting and heating, says Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, an India-based voluntary agency that is building toilet complexes in Kabul.
Pathak believes that Sulabh’s affordable, appropriate technology is ideal for the needs and conditions of Afghanistan and he is certain that the Kabul model will spread through Afghanistan, since it is suitable for both household toilets and larger public facilities.
''It’s a close loop technology with no wastes generated and it is self sustaining,’’ explains India’s ambassador to Afghanistan Rakesh Sood. The ambassador is involved because New Delhi provided aid worth one million dollars to enable Sulabh to build five 20-seat toilet complexes in the busiest areas of Kabul. Completed a few months ago these pay-and-use toilets are already serving 5,000 people on average daily.
"A visitor pays two Afghanis (0.04 US cents) per use. We were expecting some 300 users per day at each complex. But more than a thousand people visit these facilities everyday and the five complexes are already earning 11,000 Afghanis (220 dollars) a day, making them totally self sustaining," says Sushmita Shekhar of Sulabh. She said the local response was overwhelming -- especially from the women.
Saajida who sells stationery from a small cart in Farosh Gah, a busy market area, is grateful to the Sulabh toilet because the local culture does not permit women to use open areas. "Earlier, in emergencies, I had to travel to my relative’s house, two km from here. Now I can use Sulabh (Sulabh, which means ‘easily available’ in the Hindi langauge, is already a part of local vocabulary in Kabul),’’ she says from behind her veil.
Omarzai, who was among the 35 local men and women trained by Sulabh to run the project, lives near a migrant camp on the outskirts of Kabul. "It disturbs me to see these people drink water from an open canal and use makeshift dry toilets,’’ he said. ‘’Now that I have learnt this technology I would like to help build more such toilets across the country."
In the holy month of Ramadan it is common to see devout Muslims pray wherever they are during the day. But it is uncommon to see them pray on the portico of a public toilet -- a Sulabh facility in the Deh Afghanan area. "It is great to have these Sulabh toilets... now we only want mosques built next to them,’’ said an elderly man commenting on the cleanliness of the facility.
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Canadians won't pay Afghan cleric 'bribe'
September 28, 2007 - BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH, OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–Canadian officials have moved quickly to assure Afghan officials that their troops played no part in this week's shooting deaths of a local religious leader and his brother.
But military officers say they won't rush to use development projects to appease simmering public anger over the deaths, which prompted some 500 Afghans to block a highway west of here Wednesday.
"We don't want to be in a situation where we're seen as just bribing people who have a grudge against us," said Lieut. Derrick Farnham, a Canadian who works with the civil-military team on reconstruction.
"That's something that's been done in the past and it's been termed the great game in Afghanistan where locals play one side off the other in terms of getting treats and gifts. That's something we want to avoid," he said.
"There's been too long a history in Afghanistan or giving things and doing projects to try and solve problems. That's not the goal at all. It's to re-establish a country and make it work by itself."
Tensions have been running high since Tuesday when residents say foreign soldiers killed the two men during house raids in Senjaray, a community west of Kandahar.
A Canadian official said the two men were Taliban insurgents.Still, the deaths prompted a rare public demonstration as residents blocked a main highway. Chanting "death to Canada" and "death to foreigners," they called for international troops to be sent home.
"I can assure you that no Canadian force was involved in that operation," one military official said yesterday. "Right now we're talking to the governor to explain to him that it was not a Canadian operation."
Despite Canadian denials, the family of the dead men demanded that amends be made. "My cousins are killed illogically," Abdul Hai, 25, said yesterday. "They must be given compensation."
An area elder said the family should receive land or money for the deaths.
"There are 18 family members left at the same house, including children and women," said Qudratullah, 39. "Only one man remains at the family to feed the family, so that makes no sense that one man can feed the 18 family members."
The Senjaray neighbourhood is in Zhari district, a traditional home for Taliban activity. Because it doesn't support the government, it's lost out on lucrative redevelopment contracts.
"We don't have good access to the side that doesn't want us there. We operate fairly well in that half of the district that wants us. And we want to help them," Farnham said.
But he said when those in the disenchanted district see improvements happening elsewhere, they'll get "jealous" and seek help. "Our response will easily be ... let us help you," he said.
Still, he conceded that the lack of opportunities might harden attitudes among those residents. "But we are not invited in to many areas. We have tried to do development there. We're not wanted."
Farnham admitted the simmering public anger – and the problems that produce them – won't be so easily settled. "There's been good reason to be disenchanted with Afghanistan for 30 years and it's not something we can solve overnight," he said.
"There's been 30 years of revolts and fighting. To think that it's going to end just because we're here is not reasonable. There are going to be problems no matter what we do. We're going to try and minimize the problems."
Meanwhile, two Canadian soldiers are recovering in hospital after being wounded yesterday during a morning firefight with insurgents in the Panjwaii district.
One soldier was shot in the leg; the other suffered shrapnel wounds from a rocket-propelled grenade. They were evacuated to the medical facility at the Kandahar airfield, where they were in stable condition last night. It's expected one soldier will be taken to Landstuhl, Germany for further treatment.
The action happened in an area west of Ma'sum Ghar where Canadians conducted an offensive Monday to retake territory for a police substation.
As a result of operations over the last several weeks to reinforce territory and establish these new stations, a pocket of Taliban insurgents are now surrounded in Zhari district. Canadians are hoping they'll lay down their weapons.
Getting ragtag Afghan National Police into shape - Canada's exit strategy
PULCHAKAN, Afghanistan - Mohammad Haq pulls up the sleeve of his black shalwar kameez to show the scar from a Taliban bullet. He has another on his right temple, one on his abdomen and another on his back.
Haq, 26, is an Afghan National policeman and he's one of the lucky ones. He's alive. He also appears to be stoned on a hot afternoon at the Pulchakan police substation.
Drug use is a known problem among the Afghan police, a ragtag bunch with many other shortcomings. Yet they are a cornerstone of Canada's exit strategy from this war-torn land.
In military talk, the Afghan National Police have a problem with "survivability." It means they're dying and in great numbers.
The Pulchakan police substation is in the Zhari district of Kandahar, heartland of the Taliban and a place where 33 Afghan police were killed by insurgents this summer.
In July alone, 71 Afghan police were killed by insurgents in NATO's Regional Command South, which covers the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan and Nimruz of Afghanistan.
According to the International Crisis Group, approximately 630 Afghan policemen were killed in the year ending March 2007. The Afghan Interior Ministry says 500 have died since then.
"That's one of the reasons we've been put together," says Maj. Louis Lapointe, commander of the Police Operational Mentoring Liaison Team, a new program involving 50 Canadian military police and infantry who have just started training the Afghan police.
"The enemy they're facing is not a normal burglar or a normal thief," Lapointe says.
"They're facing insurgents who are well-equipped and they've got some kind of military training, which the police don't have."
The Afghan police also lack other important things.
Some of them have boots; others don't. Many seem to share a single uniform, while others don't even try to work in uniform, leaving them indistinguishable from farmers in a field or Taliban fighters.
They are notoriously corrupt, ill-equipped and poorly-trained - if they're trained at all. A glaring example came earlier this month when Afghan police opened fire on Canadians as they approached a substation en route to a mission.
The youngest of the police are 12 to 14 years old, and few of them can read or write.
Yet an effective, functioning local police force is what's required before Canada and other foreign governments can scale back their presence without giving up the progress they've made.
Canadian military and political officials have ruled out negotiation with the Taliban to end the war. In theory, Afghan security forces should be ready to take on the burden of fighting the bloody insurgency themselves when international forces leave this sunbaked country.
But even now, NATO's International Security Assistance Force simply doesn't have the numbers to guard the ground they've gained from from the Taliban.
Referring to the nine Afghan police officers he and his colleagues have been training, Sgt. Jean-Pierre Dion said: "This is the future."
"This is how we're going to eventually leave Afghanistan," Dion said as he prepared for the night watch at the recently retaken Pashmul police substation in Zhari district.
Pashmul is one of four substations where Canadians are on site mentoring police.
The Pashmul station - the term "checkpoint" has been abandoned due in part to the negative connotation of "taxes" collected unofficially by Afghan police - was abandoned to the Taliban by police during the changeover of Canadian troops this summer. Canadian troops recently took back control.
When the mentoring teams arrived, the police here were not working in shifts. The six to 10 national police who manned Pashmul woke when they woke, and kept an eye on the surrounding hills and fields when they kept an eye on the surrounding hills and fields.
As Canadians kept watch in tandem with Afghan police one night, a soldier confides that "if we weren't here, I don't think they'd be out here."
At the nearby Pulchakan substation, police slept in the fields outside the compound so that if the Taliban attacked, they wouldn't be killed.
They earn an average of about $77 a month. Afghan officials have promised to raise that to about $150 a month but it has yet to happen.
Ultimately, there are plans for upward of 80,000 Afghan policemen. But with such a staggering death rate, recruitment has fallen short - far short.
Haji Murtaza runs a bakery in Kandahar city and he's seen first-hand the handiwork of corrupt police officers.
"Once a policeman came to my bakery and did some shopping, but in the end he was not going to pay me," says Murtaza, 55. "He pulled his gun out on me, so I let him go."
Although he likes the idea of an independent Afghan force, Murtaza says they're not there yet.
"At the moment, Afghan forces can't defend themselves from the enemy, so it makes no sense that they will be able to save civilians," he says.
Before he was ousted as chief of the provincial police in Kandahar, Sayed Aka Sakeeb acknowledged the problems, including poor education among recruits.
Sakeeb said his force was understaffed, the equipment was old and there was not enough of it. "Sometimes, our guns don't fire," he told an interpreter.
What he didn't mention is that police also sell their ammunition and equipment - and they're not selling it back to international forces.
The uncertain status of Sakeeb himself, a warload with his own militia, reflects the problems faced by the police. Rumours had circulated for a while that he was no longer police chief but he continued to act as one.
On Thursday, there were reports that Sakeeb had finally left his post, taking his militia and their weapons with him.
It has been a year since Canadians began a similar mentoring program with the Afghan army and results have been positive.
A police telephone line has been put in place in Kandahar - a sort of Afghan 911 - but so far only Taliban have called, to threaten police.
In the coming months, Afghan police will learn basic military skills from the Canadians, like weapons training and how to respond to an enemy ambush.
Two weeks into the program, the police mentoring team are all too aware of the obstacles ahead of them, yet they are determined.
"I've got a good group here," says Sgt. Marc Langelier, whose team has been at the substation in Lakokwel for 12 days. "Most of them are older and they've been fighters for many, many years."
"They want to learn."
But in this crumbling country, corruption and survival are deeply entwined and difficult to discourage. "There is corruption," admits Lapointe. "Our soldiers are professional soldiers so they will lead by example."
In the light of the moon at the substation in Pashmul, Afghan commander Mohammad Khan says he welcomes the Canadians. "I like to work with them," he tells visitors. "If they can stay two weeks or three weeks, that's good."
Just 28, Khan is a veteran fighter and his eight policemen, all in uniform, are among the more promising in the new program.
Khan says they don't have body armour, enough ammunition or helmets. There aren't enough of them to conduct proper patrols, and they don't have a vehicle or enough weapons.
But he is determined they will hold off insurgents once Canadians leave. "We can do it," he says through an interpreter.
Unlike most of the policemen in the district, Khan is from another province and has no tribal ties that affect his work. "If you're good with the people, they're good with you," he tells his visitors.
The next day, however, Canadian soldiers said they discovered that Khan had accepted money from a passing vehicle.
Earlier this week, one of the Canadian soldiers training Afghan police at Pashmul was shot in an ambush while on patrol. He remains in serious but stable condition in hospital.
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Senior officials linked to drug smuggling: Afghan VP
KABUL, Sept 27 - (Pajhwok Afghan News) - The burgeoning drug commerce would be hard to rein in if high-ranking government officials involved in narcotics smuggling were not prosecuted, a senior official warned on Thursday.
First Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masood, addressing a ceremony that marked the opening of a Counter-Narcotics Police complex, said: "We should admit that some top-ranking government officials are unfortunately linked to the smuggling of drugs."
In addition to their complicity in the illegal trade, Masood pointed to increasing corruption in almost all government departments. Together, he reasoned, the twin problems led to an unprecedented rise in opium production in Afghanistan this year.
"The government should take stringent measures against those involved in drug smuggling," stressed the vice-president, who alleged some district chiefs - supported by governors and other powerful quarters - were hand in glove with poppy farmers.
Masood opined support to the Afghan government from the international community in combating the drugs scourge had failed to produce the desired results. "On our part, it is self-deceptive and illogical to arm 200-300 policemen with sticks and task them with eradicating poppy fields."
The complex, constructed at the cost of $18 million provided by the US and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is spread over 22.5 acres in Qasbi area of Kabul. France too has contributed to the centre constructed in two years.
Speaking on the occasion, Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Karen P. Tandy observed Afghanistan's war on narcotic smugglers and poppy farmers began from the newly-built complex.
"This police force will combat elements intent upon destroying peace in Afghanistan and posing a threat to the whole world," she remarked, describing drug smuggling and terrorist as intertwined issues.
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Weak rule of law hinders human development in Afghanistan
New National Human Development Report is launched
Source: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) September 26, 2007
United Nations, New York - In Afghanistan, "the justice system must be rebuilt in a way that bridges modern and traditional justice institutions, protects citizens' rights and strengthens rule of law, a pivotal step in Afghanistan's march to successful political transition and development." This is a key recommendation of the Afghanistan National Human Development Report 2007, unveiled here today.
'Bridging Modernity and Tradition: Rule of Law and the Search for Justice' is the second National Human Development Report (NHDR) for Afghanistan. Supported by the Government of Afghanistan and UNDP, but prepared by an independent team of authors, the report explores the importance of rule of law to human development in the country. It identifies severe shortfalls in human and material resources in the formal justice system, and calls for it to be strengthened for more effective dispute settlement. It makes a strong case for a "hybrid model of Afghan justice" with traditional systems of dispute settlement - jirgas and shuras - complementing the formal justice system.
"In analyzing the challenges of human development and the rule of law, this Report advocates a bold and creative approach to strengthening the justice institutions in Afghanistan," said Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, in a statement read during the launch. "While remaining committed to universal principles of human rights and Afghan laws, we believe that the state and traditional justice bodies working together can help make justice and the rule of law more readily available to Afghans."
Afghanistan has adapted the globally-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger, to include nine Afghan MDGs. Since 2002, the country has maintained a steady growth rate and is likely to achieve its poverty goal by 2020. The picture, however, is disappointing for most of the other goals. Some 6.6 million Afghans — or one-third of the population — do not have enough food to eat, and half the population expressed concerns about whether they will have enough to eat.
The country does better on women's political representation than many of its South Asian neighbours, with about a quarter of seats reserved for women in the lower house of the National Assembly. However, income disparities between men and women are huge, with men earning four times more than women on average. Only 12 percent of women are literate – compared to 32.4 percent of men – and 23.5 percent of the population aged 15 years and above can read and write. Injustices to women and children, both in the denial of basic services like healthcare and education and lack of livelihood opportunities, as well as high levels of domestic violence and discrimination, are among the major challenges to attaining the country's development goals.
Despite notable progress, the mortality rate for children under five years and the proportion of mothers dying in childbirth are among the highest in the world. Also, less than one in three households has access to safe drinking water and forests have been reduced by almost half since 1978.
In 2004, the Afghan Government estimated that the amount of aid required over the next seven years would be US$27.5 billion or $168 per capita per year. But disbursements between 2002 and 2005 fell far short of this target at an estimated $83 per capita per year. Since 2006, donors have so far contributed or pledged $10 billion, only half of what the Government believes is needed to implement its development strategy. The Report, therefore, urges donors to meet their commitments to support the country's efforts to achieve the MDGs.
"The findings of the 2007 Afghanistan Human Development Report reveal that despite decades of war, Afghanistan has made measurable progress with regard to some key dimensions of human development as well as towards achieving Afghanistan's development goals," said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. "With the spectre of violence and uncertainty lifting ever so gradually from Afghanistan the need to expand prospects of life and human development across the length and breadth of the country assume ever-greater urgency."
The Report notes that personal security is among the major impediments to achieving the goals in Afghanistan. In 2006 alone, more than 4,400 Afghans—including 1,000 civilians— died in anti-government violence, twice as many as in 2005. The Report states that "security is a prerequisite for the rule of law that, in turn creates an atmosphere conducive to human development. Strengthening the rule of law can nonetheless, serve as an important means to advance the freedom of people to exercise choices and enhance their capacity to live meaningful and healthy lives."
The Report highlights the need for reconciliation to come to terms with past human rights violations. It finds that two out of three Afghan respondents in a survey said that either they themselves or a family member had been a direct victim of injustice and human rights violations over the past two decades. The primary victims of human rights violations and war crimes were women, children, and ethnic and religious minorities.
The ever-expanding narcotics trade has serious political and national security implications for the region. Poppy cultivation spiked in 2006 by 61 percent and Afghanistan produced 90 percent of the world's opium. "The opium economy is a source of corruption and undercuts public institutions, particularly those in the security and justice sectors," says the Report. Pervasive corruption in Afghanistan, if unchecked, can also erode the gains made so far, as well as the legitimacy of both the Government and international assistance, the Report says. The courts are perceived as the most corrupt institution followed by the Administrative branches of the Government. The Report observes that pervasive corruption in Afghanistan severely undermines the rule of law.
Land entitlement and secure property rights are other roadblocks to the rule of law according to the Report. Judicial staff members are poorly paid and many lack professional qualifications. Moreover, key components of the formal justice system do not operate as a whole. All these problems hamper the efficiency and effectiveness of the Afghan justice system.
In the traditional system, the emphasis is on speed and reconciliation with the aim of reintegrating the offender back into the community. Qualitative data from perception surveys conducted earlier this year shows that Afghans see jirgas and shuras as more accessible, more effective in the delivery of justice, less corrupt and more trustworthy than formal courts. Women, on the other hand, lose out in both formal and informal systems. They are often denied equal and fair access to justice as they are not allowed to register cases themselves. Traditional mechanisms are even less equal with outcomes like baad, a practice that clearly violates human rights principles through forced marriages.
While alternate dispute resolution mechanisms are needed to buttress the fledgling formal justice system, the Report also makes a strong argument in favour of an effective supervisory human rights oversight in order to ensure that decisions made by jirgas and shuras are in line with human rights principles and the Constitution of Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan National Development Strategy, to be completed by mid-2008 following a series of sub-national consultations in all 34 provinces, acknowledges that good governance, justice and rule of law are essential pre-conditions for development and the basis for legitimate government, protection of citizens' rights and a competitive market economy. It also commits the government to making a functioning justice system available to all Afghans.
The Afghanistan National Human Development Report was prepared with the support of UNDP by a team of independent researchers led by distinguished analysts from the Kabul University-based Centre for Policy and Human Development. The Report is based on both primary and secondary (qualitative and quantitative) data and on consultations with citizens throughout Afghanistan.
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NDP claims "deeply offensive:" former Afghan Chief of Staff
Hamid Karzai's former chief of staff demands a retraction from the NDP following the party's claim that the Canadian military penned a speech given by the Afghan president
Kate Lunau | Macleans.ca, Sep 27, 2007
Denouncing recent allegations by the NDP as "baseless" and "deeply offensive," the Afghan president's former chief of staff is to send a letter to party leadership calling for a retraction, according to Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada Omar Samad.
The letter, which Samad told Macleans.ca will be sent "within the next day or two," follows accusations from the NDP that the Canadian military penned a speech given by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Canadian Parliament on Sept. 22, 2006. In the speech, Karzai praised the Canadian military effort in Afghanistan, and denounced NDP leader Jack Layton for his opposition to the mission.
Jawad Ludin, who was Karzai's chief of staff at the time the speech was given and is now the ambassador to Norway, wrote the letter to the NDP. The letter will not be publicly available, Samad said. He noted that Ludin "was responsible for putting [the speech] together with the help of Afghan diplomats and senior advisors." While preparing the speech, Ludin requested statistics on the Canadian military presence and development aid to Afghanistan, Samad said.
In an interview with Macleans.ca, Samad reiterated his outrage at the NDP's allegations. "My initial reaction was to laugh about this, and then to feel somewhat insulted," Samad said. "I hope the NDP realizes they have jumped to a conclusion that is not accurate, and there may also have been some inaccuracy in the report they saw."
Karzai reviewed the speech in question several times before delivering it before Parliament, and at times spoke spontaneously without referring to his notes, Samad said.
"There is a lot of bilateral discussion that goes on prior to an important visit, or a speech or communiqué," Samad emphasized. "To say that some raw data or statistics being given constitutes writing a speech is far-fetched."
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In Afghanistan, Anger in Parliament Grows as President Defies Majority’s Wishes
By KIRK SEMPLE The New York Times September 26, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 25 — In May, the lower house of the Afghan Parliament voted overwhelmingly to oust the country’s foreign minister on the grounds of incompetence. In a different time and place, the matter might have been over as quickly as it began.
But this is Afghanistan, still in the tense, halting infancy of a new democratic era. And more than four months after the vote, much to the anger of the parliamentary majority, the minister remains in his post, protected by the man who appointed him: President Hamid Karzai.
Mr. Karzai said the vote was illegal and motivated simply by politics. The legislators have accused the president of snubbing the Constitution and undermining the democratic foundations of the republic.
The dispute is the most serious manifestation of the long-simmering tension between the Karzai administration and the warlords and former mujahedeen in the legislature, who want more control over policy making. It threatens to bring Parliament to a halt and pitch Afghanistan into a political crisis.
Mr. Karzai’s opponents have promised to boycott Parliament unless he removes the minister, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta. In recent days, a group of more than 50 legislators, most of them members of a new opposition coalition, have threatened to quit altogether over the president’s intransigence.
“This is serious,” said Wadir Safi, a member of the faculty of law and political science at Kabul University. “It’s dangerous for the government and the nation.” The showdown, he said, is eroding whatever public confidence in the elected leadership remains.
After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Mr. Karzai, a member of the Pashtun majority, cast himself as a unifier of the country’s diverse political and ethnic populations, and he sought to elevate government above party politics.
During the writing of the new Constitution, he advocated a strong presidential system to break the power of the country’s warlords. The northern ethnic groups advocated a parliamentary system with a prime minister, which they hoped would break the Pashtuns’ longtime grip on power.
The presidential system — and Mr. Karzai — prevailed.
“Karzai has a particular vision for dealing with government, and it doesn’t involve a big role for the legislative branch,” said a Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
But the president has long been dogged by criticism of ineffectiveness and chronic indecision. Government corruption and poppy cultivation are rampant and public services remain a wreck; food prices are soaring, unemployment remains high and resurgent Taliban forces in the south are pressing toward this capital.
As public confidence in Mr. Karzai has evaporated, opposition has escalated sharply from within the government, led by regional power brokers who feel he has marginalized them.
During his three-year interim presidency, Mr. Karzai created a cabinet that fairly reflected the country’s political and ethnic factions — including military commanders who had led the fight against the Soviet occupation and, later, the Taliban. But Mr. Karzai largely purged his second cabinet of warlords and replaced them with technocrats, shifting the balance of power in favor of Western-oriented Pashtuns like himself.
In March, a coalition of legislators and other politicians formed a sprawling coalition called the National Front. At its core were former members of the Northern Alliance, the mostly non-Pashtun resistance group that fought the Taliban. The coalition is a direct challenge to Mr. Karzai’s vision for governance: It has vowed to make a series of constitutional and electoral changes that would weaken the presidency and give more influence to political parties.
And it showed its strength in the drive to toss out Mr. Spanta, the foreign minister.
A Western-educated technocrat who has shunned tribal politics, Mr. Spanta had alienated the warlords and former mujahedeen in Parliament with his opposition to a blanket amnesty for war crimes committed during Afghanistan’s three decades of conflict. His supporters say he also angered some politicians by refusing to appoint their allies and relatives to ministerial and diplomatic posts.
Last spring, Mr. Spanta and the country’s minister of refugee affairs, Ustad Akbar Akbar, were accused by many legislators of failing to stop the expulsion from Iran of about 50,000 Afghan refugees and immigrant workers. On May 10, the 248-member lower house voted to oust Mr. Akbar, according to a provision in the Constitution that allows Parliament to recall ministers. Two days later, a majority of lawmakers voted against Mr. Spanta.
Mr. Karzai accepted the resignation of the refugee affairs minister, pending the appointment of a replacement, but took the matter of the foreign minister to the Supreme Court, contending that the issue was not directly related to the Foreign Ministry. The court supported the president.
The legislators, in turn, have insisted that the court’s opinion was nonbinding. (Afghanistan does not have a constitutional court, and though the Constitution provides for a committee to supervise its “implementation,” Mr. Karzai’s government has not formed one.)
Both sides have dug in their heels. Both ministers remain in their jobs.
Saleh Mohammad Registani, a member of the National Front, said he would quit Parliament unless Mr. Karzai drops Mr. Spanta. “If the executive doesn’t pay attention to our decisions, what can we do?” he asked in a recent interview. “If 60 M.P.’s resign, definitely Parliament will collapse.”
For his part, Mr. Spanta said that he had submitted his resignation “two or three times” to Mr. Karzai, but that the president had rejected it. “I’m still minister of foreign affairs,” he said in an interview. “I have the support of the president.”
The struggle could be seen as the healthy growing pains of a new democracy, some analysts say. But Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister under Mr. Karzai and a member of the Northern Alliance, said Afghanistan is too fragile to withstand this sort of political standoff.
“Somebody should put an end to it,” he said in an interview. “All of you have shown your stamina, your perseverance, your strength — or whatever you want to call it. You cannot pull the rope until it breaks.”
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Govt set to impose 40 % duty on exportation of flour to Afghanistan
PakTribune.com Thursday September 27, 2007 (2138 PST)
ISLAMABAD: Government has decided to impose 40 Percent duty on exportation of flour (atta) to Afghanistan after unable to control the crisis of atta and smuggling of wheat.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had decided to impose 30 to 35 Percent duty on exportation of rice but some hoarder ministers opposed the decision due to which it was postponed, sources told Online.
However, the Government has completely failed to control the situation and decided to impose 35 to 40 Percent duty on exportation of atta to Afghanistan just to control the crises of atta.
The Government can face huge loss in next general elections if fails to control the crisis. The Parliamentarian belonging to Social circle have appreciated the step taken by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
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Hafizi re-elected as AICC executive chief
KABUL, Sep 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Azrkhush Hafizi was re-elected as executive chief of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) on Wednesday.
Elections for the post were held at the AICC office, with 18 of 21 members attending the polling held for deputies, finance secretary and secretary. Hamidullah Faruqi, head of AICC, said two people were nominated for the executive chief, a position that Hafizi retained.
He added Muhammad Hassan Amir was elected as first deputy, Hosai Andar as second and Abdul Tawab Sorat Zada as deputy head of industries and Muhammad Azam Kargar as finance secretary.
He said election for the post of secretary will be held next weeks as the candidates bagged equal votes at Wednesday's polling. AICC was established in 2004 with support from Afghan businessmen and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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Window for Life to get control of counseling project
KABUL, Sept 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The German ambassador is scheduled to hand over a successful humanitarian project on psychosocial counseling to Afghan ownership today.
Ambassador Dr Seidt will be attending a ceremony marking the transfer of ownership of a long-standing and successful humanitarian project supported by the German government today.
The "psychosocial counseling" project will be handed over to the responsibility of the Afghan organisation Window for Life. This organisation has been carrying out the project as an implementing partner for Germany for almost three years.
In a press statement, the German embassy said the project was of particular importance in view of the traumatising experience of war which many Afghans underwent during the past decades.
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Karzai voices concern over Mideast situation
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): President Hamid Karzai Tuesday expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Palestine and the Middle Eastern region.
In his speech at the 62nd General Assembly at the UN headquarters, the visiting president said Afghanistan watched the situation in the Middle East with deep concern.
"In particular, we remain concerned about the situation in Palestine and call for the full realisation of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to an independent state, living side by side with its neighbours in peace and co-existence," Karzai remarked.
The Afghan leader also welcomed the adoption of Iraqi Compact, which was sponsored by the UN and the international community. "This is an achievement, which marks Iraq's new partnership with the international community to consolidate peace and promote social and economic development."
Lalit K. Jha
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Karzai has hectic schedule in New York
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): President Hamid Karzai Tuesday actively participated in proceedings of the 62nd UN General Assembly.
He took time out from his hectic schedule to listen to speeches of various world leaders including US President George Bush and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Besides sitting through the inaugural session of the General Assembly, which was addressed by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Karzai attended the entire speeches of Bush and Ahmadinejad.
Early in the day, Karzai attended the Round Table on Democracy, which was hosted by US President George W Bush. Karzai also met World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.
Later in the afternoon, the president had a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both had s fruitful discussion on the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, diplomatic sources told Pajhwok Afghan News. The meeting lasted for about 20 minutes.
Later in the evening, Karzai attended a reception hosted by George W. Bush. He is expected to meet Bush Wednesday morning, during which the two are likely to discuss the progress made by Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era.
Lalit K. Jha
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