Iraq troop escalation of 2007

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"Surge" is a phrase commonly used to describe the change in U.S. military strategy, specifically to reinforce American troops in the Iraq theater of operations.

On January 10, 2007, Bush announced changes in the administration's political and military strategy in the Iraq War during a national television speech broadcast. The speech and underlying strategy had been crafted under the working title "The New Way Forward." In the address Bush stated “America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them—five brigades—will be deployed to Baghdad.”[1]

The substance of the strategy change was widely debated even prior to Bush's speech. Following the speech, the press continued to report efforts by the Bush administration to 'sell' the strategy, and several prominent political and military leaders made public acts decrying or supporting the plan for various reasons.

Contents

Nomenclature

The phrases "New Way Forward"[2][3], "The New Way Forward"[4][5] and "A new way forward in Iraq"[6] were widely used by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow[7] and the news media prior to the President's speech announcing the policy change. The US press also refers to this proposed increase as a "surge" or "Iraq troop surge." Following the speech, Democrats began using the term "escalation" rather than "surge" to more accurately describe the shift in strategy.

Demand for policy change

2006 Election as referendum on Iraq War

Polls showed that before the 2006 election “A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress”,[8] this view of the election as a referendum on the war was endorsed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi who in the final days of the campaign said “This election is about Iraq. If indeed it turns out the way that people expect it to turn out, the American people will have spoken, and they will have rejected the course of action the president is on.”[9]

Democrats announce priority to be on changing Iraq policy

After her party's victory then House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi wrote an article entitled "Bringing the War to an End is my Highest Priority as Speaker". The article explained that after visting wounded Iraq War veterans at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center "I left there more committed than ever to bringing the war to an end. I told my colleagues yesterday that the biggest ethical issue facing our country for the past three and a half years is the war in Iraq. ...When the House reconvenes on January 4, 2007, Democrats will take power and I will take the gavel knowing the responsibility we have to you and to the country. The new Democratic Congress will live up to the highest ethical standard... [we] are prepared to lead and ready to govern. We will honor the trust of the American people; we will not disappoint."[10] She noted the coming birth of a new grandchild and said "I want my grandchild to be born into an America where if the U.S. Central Command judges the situation in Iraq to be near chaos, with 'violence at all-time high, spreading geographically', if the top intelligence agencies tell you that the war in Iraq is inspiring the very terrorism it was purported to prevent, and if four highly respected military newspapers say of the Secretary of Defense that 'his strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised...[he] must go' that you fire your Secretary of Defense and change the course."[11]

Blunt leads the Republican call for "new way forward"

Following the 2006 elections where the Republicans lost seats in the House and Senate, a Heritage Foundation conference was chaired by Republican whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) under the title "The New Way Forward: Refocusing the Conservative Agenda" on November 9, 2006 to analyze "setbacks" from the historic loss by the Republicans. Blunt bemoaned the fact Republicans had "become the defenders rather than the challengers of business as usual".[12]

Blunt opened his speech listing the oft voiced explanations of his parties defeat which included that the results were in part “a referendum on the war in Iraq”. He dismissed the notion that any one single reason explained the loss, saying “Different candidates lost for different reasons”. He saw a bright side in events saying “The good news is that even with these shortcomings, low presidential approval numbers, and uncertainty about Iraq, our candidates saw, even with all those things happening, their ideas taking hold in the final days of their campaigns. A shift of 78,000 votes in the entire country would have changed the outcome. Our ideas didn’t get beat; in fact, we did.” He applauded the Constitutional system saying the defeat proves “that no one party has a permanent claim to power…This means any viable political movement, such as ours, can never afford to become stagnant or complacent. We must constantly refresh our ideas, assess our performance, and make corrections when necessary. This is a great moment to do all three of those things. For a generation Reagan conservatives have consistently demonstrated an ability to do just that. Nowhere has this been more evident than in our response to the threats of Islamic totalitarianism and the fight with our terrorist enemies.” He said “While the threats of Islamic totalitarianism at times require different tactics, we are approaching those challenges with the same resolve that allowed us to defeat communism. I am convinced that in this fight we will also prevail because the American people understand the need to win. We must continue to lead the fight against Islamic totalitarianism and sustain the will to win the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. …[On the war and on domestic issues] Our plan must avoid the mistakes of the past several years. …I am confident that we will successfully move forward.”[13]

Gathering information for "the new way forward"

Iraq Study Group

On December 6, 2006 the Iraq Study Group presented their report. Co-chairman James Baker said that since "events in Iraq could overtake what we recommend...[members] believe that decisions should be made by our national leaders with some urgency."[14] Upon receiving the report Bush told the group "we will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion."

Later in the day White House spokesman Tony Snow told CNN's Larry King that President Bush was comparing recommendations “by the Iraq Study Group with pending studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council”. Once the review was finished, Snow believed that the President would be able to "announce a new way forward" in Iraq by the end of the year.

Meeting with State Dept. advisers

On December 11, 2006 Bush met with Senior State Department advisers (including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) “on how to shape U.S. policy in Iraq as part of Bush's mission to come up with a new strategy.”[15] He reiterated his intent to communicate that strategy to the nation before Christmas 2006, and said “There is no question we've got to make sure that the State Department and the Defense Department -- the efforts and their recommendations are closely coordinated, so that when I do speak to the American people, they will know that I've listened to all aspects of government and that the way forward is the way forward to achieve our objective: to succeed in Iraq.”

Meeting with Iraqi experts

Later on December 11, 2006 Bush met “with a group of Iraqi experts, including historians and former generals, in the Oval Office.” The Washington Post reported that among the panel of experts were retired four star generals Barry McCaffrey, Wayne A. Downing, and John Keane; along with Eliot Cohen, who panned the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.[16] The Post went on to say "The group disagreed on the key issue of whether to send more troops to Iraq, with retired Gen. John M. Keane arguing that several thousand additional soldiers could be used to improve security in Baghdad, and others expressing doubt about that proposal." The group also suggested Bush change personnel in his national security team. One panel member reported that "All of us said they have failed, that you need a new team." The President thanked the panel and told reporters “I appreciate the advice I got from those folks in the field. And that advice is ... an important component of putting together a new way forward in Iraq.”

Meeting with the Joint Chiefs

On December 13, 2007 President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney met with with the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for “more than an hour”, discussing different military options for Iraq. While “no dramatic proposals” were put forward “a pragmatic assessment of what can and cannot be done by the military” was offered.

Call for a new focus on economics, training, and reconciliation

They did “not favor adding significant numbers of troops to Iraq” but saw “strengthening the Iraqi army as pivotal to achieving some degree of stability.” They pressed for “greater U.S. effort on economic reconstruction and political reconciliation.” They stressed the need for “employment programs, reconstruction and political reconciliation…[as] key to pulling young men from the burgeoning militias.” They said there was “no purely military solution for Iraq” and “without major progress on the political and economic fronts, the U.S. intervention is simply buying time”. They also urged “that any new strategy be sensitive to regional context, particularly the impact of political or military decisions.” They fear that throwing too much support to the Shiite majority may lead Sunni nations in the region to step up support of Sunni insurgents, and that a crackdown on Iraq's largest Shiite militia, the Mahdi army, may instigate more interference by Iran.[17]

The Chiarelli plan

Gen. George William Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was reported to be “reviewing a plan to redefine the American military mission there: U.S. troops would be pulled out of Iraqi cities and consolidated at a handful of U.S. bases while day-to-day combat duty would be turned over to the Iraqi army.” It was said that he is “still considering whether to request more troops, possibly as part of an expanded training mission to help strengthen the Iraqi army.” These options were laid out by the outgoing U.S. ground commander, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli. Under the Chiarelli plan “the military would shift about half of its 15 combat brigades away from battling insurgents and sectarian violence and into training Iraqi security forces as soon as the spring of 2007. … About 4,000 U.S. troops are now serving on 11-person military training teams embedded with Iraqi forces. The new plan would add 30 troops to each team, allowing them to provide supervision and mentoring down to the level of Iraqi army companies. … the remaining seven to eight brigades of U.S. combat forces would focus on three core missions: striking al-Qaeda, strengthening security along Iraq's borders, and protecting major highways and other routes to ensure U.S. forces freedom of movement in Iraq. …The plan would not allow for any major reduction in U.S. troops in Iraq over the next year -- nor would it call for any surge in troops”. Military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said that “In northern and western Iraq, U.S. commanders are already moving troops out of combat missions to place them as advisers with lower-level Iraqi army units.”

Effect on military personnel, stress and quality of recruits

The Chiefs expressed “concern about the erosion of the U.S. military's ability to deal with other crises around the world because of the heavy commitment in Iraq and the stress on troops and equipment”. They told Bush that there was “significantly increased risk to readiness in the event of a new emergency”.

Maintaining higher troop levels in the face higher causalities required two changes in the army. Tours of duty were increased and the exclusions of volunteers with a history of criminal acts were relaxed Moral Waiver. Both of these changes are expected to increase the probability of violence against Iraqi non combatants. A defense department sponsored report [18] described increased length of tours leading to higher stress which increase manifestations of anger and disrespect for civilians.

The so called Moral Waiver have implications for killing of non combatants: John D. Hutson, dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, said the military must tread carefully in deciding which criminals to accept. There is a reason, he said, why allowing people with criminal histories into the military has long been the exception rather than the rule. If you are recruiting somebody who has demonstrated some sort of antisocial behavior and then you are a putting a gun in their hands, you have to be awfully careful about what you are doing, Mr. Hutson said. You are not putting a hammer in their hands, or asking them to sell used cars. You are potentially asking them to kill people.[19]

Bush's reaction

Speaking to reporters afterward Bush said “Our military cannot do this job alone. Our military needs a political strategy that is effective.” He also stressed his ongoing commitment to securing Iraq, saying “If we lose our nerve, if we're not steadfast in our determination to help the Iraqi government succeed, we will be handing Iraq over to an enemy that would do us harm.” When pressed for when he would announce his new way forward, he said he would not be “rushed” into a decision and was still reviewing his options.

Dec. 14 comments

On December 14, 2006, when pressed by reporters for more information on his thinking on the matter Bush said “I am listening to a lot of advice to develop a strategy to help you succeed, a lot of consultations. I will be delivering my plans after a long deliberation, after steady deliberation. I'm not going to be rushed into making a decision.” He stated that he had heard some “interesting” ideas. He also said he heard some “ideas that would lead to defeat…[and] I reject those ideas. Ideas such as leaving before the job is done. Ideas such as not helping this (Iraqi) government take the necessary and hard steps to be able to do its job.” He said he wanted the incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates “to have time to evaluate the situation” and come up with his own suggestions. That same day Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a written statement saying that he had received Bush’s assurances that “he would make no decisions on his new Iraq strategy that would be ‘against your interests’…[ and his pledge] to work with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on his efforts to implement a Baghdad security plan”. CNN reported that “Administration officials say Bush is ‘not satisfied’ with some of the information he has been getting and ‘is asking people to get him more’ information on various options in Iraq.”[ http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/12/13/bush.iraq/index.html]

Though originally scheduled for late 2006, the announcement on "the new way forward" was delayed to give the President "more time" to gather information. Press secretary Tony Snow said the administration was hoping for the president to deliver the speech before Christmas, although he said the timing was not nailed down.

American Enterprise Institute report

This American Enterprise Institute report referenced is listed as having been posted December 14, and was called the "real Iraq Study Group report" by its author.file of report The draft was presented on December 14 by Frederick Kagan, AEI, General Keane, and Kenneth Pollack, (Brookings Institution) event detail. AEI released its final report to the press on January 5, 2007, under the title "Iraq: A Turning Point (With Reports from Iraq from Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman)"[20]. The event description stated the following:

"The study calls for a large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad. Mr. Kagan directed the report in consultation with military and regional experts, including General Keane, former Afghanistan coalition commander Lieutenant General David Barno, and other officers involved with the successful operations of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar. An interim version of the report was released on December 14, 2006. At this event, Mr. Kagan and General Keane will present their final report, which outlines how the United States can win in Iraq and why victory is the only acceptable outcome. "

Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle [21] [22] also connects Bush's strategy to this AEI report, saying "In addition to the changing of the military guard and moving ahead with the 'surge' option, President Bush's Iraq strategy involves more money for reconstruction, job creation, and for 'moderate Iraqi political parties as a means of building a centrist political coalition to support Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,' according to the Wall Street Journal. This more holistic approach — reportedly entitled 'The New Way Forward' — echoes in many ways a paper from the American Enterprise Institute, authored by Frederick Kagan, better known as the prime mover of the 'surge option.'"

Personnel changes prior to the speech

In addition to the January 5 AEI report press conference, the press reported on several public announcements by the Bush Administration on January 5 that they attributed to the new Iraq initiative, as follow: [23]

Pre-speech expectations of the strategy change and troop surge

Bush was expected to announce a "surge" in forces that some sources say could be up to 20,000 troops. According to Reuters, "While Bush is to announce a complete overhaul of his Iraq policy, including economic and political components, the possibility of a troop increase has gained the most attention. Despite a divide on the issue, Bush in recent days has hinted toward a preference for increasing troop strength by saying he wanted to help Iraqis gain control of the security situation there. "One thing is for certain, I will want to make sure that the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished," Bush said on Thursday when asked about a troop increase."[25] In fact, Bush's proposed increase was 21,000 US troops, 4000 of which would be Marine Corps focused on the Anbar province while the others would be embedded into Iraqi units to provide security to Baghdad.

Prebuttals

Sidney Blumenthal of Salon.com reported December 20 that "Bush's touted but unexplained "new way forward" (his version of the ISG's "the way forward") may be the first order of battle, complete with details of units, maps and timetables, ever posted on the Web site of a think tank. "I will not be rushed," said Bush. But apparently he has already accepted the latest neoconservative program, artfully titled with catchphrases appealing to his desperation -- "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" -- and available for reading on the site of the American Enterprise Institute."[26]

The 110th Congress took control of the Senate January 4 and announced that they would call Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the Senate Armed Services Committee later that week "to explain, if not try to defend, the president's plan"[27] Prior to the speech, US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a member of the Armed Services Committee, held a press conference[28] with former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark and Jon Soltz, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and together called on President Bush "to listen to the advice of his generals and the American people and offer a new plan to change course in Iraq."[29]

January 10: Plan announcement, resistance, and fait accompli

On January 10, the day of the speech, ABC News announced three points: (1) that they had learned that "the 'surge' Bush is expected to announce in a prime time speech tonight has already begun. Ninety advance troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Baghdad Wednesday. (2) A spokeswoman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who, Tuesday, urgently called for Congress to vote on — and reject — the proposed surge. (3) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.M., also responded to the report, calling the troops' arrival "deeply disappointing." [30]

January 10: Speech

See President's Address to the Nation - 1/10/07 for the text of the Presdent's speech presenting his escalation plan

Plan B

There is speculation as to what course the U.S. would pursue if this escalation or surge does not succeed. The current phrase of alternative strategy is Plan B. Juan Williams stated, January 15, 2007, on WNYC's Brian Lehrer' Show that Plan B involved removing Maliki and replacing him with someone more amenable to the United States' objectives. In April, 2006 a Council on Foreign Relations staff writer listed several possible Plan B scenarios.[31]

Aftermath of the strategy speech

Information Released by the Bush Administration immediately following the speech

The Bush administration issued talking points and transcripts about the strategy to communicate the strategy to the pubic.

According to the "Fact Sheet: The New Way Forward in Iraq " issued by the White House,[32] "the President's New Iraq Strategy Is Rooted In Six Fundamental Elements" as follow:

  1. Let the Iraqis lead;
  2. Help Iraqis protect the population;
  3. Isolate extremists;
  4. Create space for political progress;
  5. Diversify political and economic efforts; and
  6. Situate the strategy in a regional approach.

The fact sheet further divides the proposal into four "Elements Of The New Approach" (Security, Political, Economic, Regional) that each have subcomponent responsibilities for three categories: Iraqis only, Coalition only, and combined Iraqi and Coalition.

On January 11, Gordon Johndroe gave the press gaggle about Bush's trip to Fort Benning, saying, "The President is going to, one, thank them for their service in the global war on terror -- personnel from Fort Benning have, one, a long tradition of being deployed overseas in battles for the United States, but most recently in the global war on terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq -- thank them for their service; thank the family members that are here for the sacrifices they make when their loved one is overseas. And then he's going to talk about his speech last night and the mission he outlined and the way ahead in Iraq."

On January 11, the white house released a transcript of statements by Condoleeza Rice, Robert Gates, and Peter Pace with respect to the president's speech under the title of "Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials".

Positive and negative responses to the Speech/Strategy

The substance of the debate that followed the speech reflected " widespread disagreement with the Bush administration over its proposed solution, and growing skepticism that the United States made the right decision in going to war in the first place" [33]. Some issues of contention were divisions over the advisability of committing more troops versus complete withdrawal, the 'winnability' of the Iraq War regardless of a surge, and framing of the issue.

Comments and responses of notable politicians, military officers, and news commentators follows:

January 11 to January 18

  • Immediately after the speech, Senator Dick Durbin issued the Democratic response which called upon Iraqis to "disband the militias and death squads."
  • Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich also criticized the new strategy claiming that the new plan could cause a war with Iran[34]
  • New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks said that the speech was "nearly impossible to figure out". Other critics have compared Bush's new plan to "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
  • Jim Manley of the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issuing weekly press releases entitled "The Iraq Accountability Project: A Wrap-Up of This Week's Senate Oversight on Iraq" [35] with sound bites from select testimonies to the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • January 16
    • Chuck Hagel, Delaware Democrat Joe Biden (Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair), and Michigan Democrat Carl Levin (Armed Services Committee) chair co-sponsored a non-binding resolution that says it is “not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq.”[36]
  • January 17
    • Moveon.org released an ad that identifies the surge strategy as "Mccain's idea".[37]. The New York Times' reports that presidential candidate "John Edwards has taken to referring to the administration proposal as 'the McCain Doctrine.'" “The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own: impose its rule throughout the country,” McCain said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Jan. 12.
    • The NYT also reported that Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as backing Bush on the troop increase, while Sam Brownback and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel reportedly oppose increasing American troop strength.
    • Xinhua News Agency reported that Demcratic "whitehouse hopefuls" Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Christopher Dodd, Joe Biden, and Republican "whitehouse hopeful" Sam Brownback all voiced their discontent Wednesday with the course of events in Iraq [38]

January 18 to January 25

  • January 18
    • Harry Reid issues a second week's worth of sound bites from Senate testimonies under the title "The Iraq Accountability Project: A Wrap-Up of This Week´s Senate Oversight on Iraq" [39]
    • The LA Times released a Bloomberg poll that said 60 percent of those polled oppose Bush's decision to deploy more soldiers to Iraq, 51 percent want Congress to try to block Bush from sending more soldiers, and 65 percent disapprove of the president's handling of the war [40] meanwhile, a Fox News Poll reported that 59 percent to 36 percent, Americans oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq [41]
  • January 19 --
    • During a news conference with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. George Casey estimated that the 21,500 additional U.S. troops sent to Iraq will only need to stay until around late summer. [42]
    • three four star generals testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advising that the US pull out of Iraq [43]
      • Gen. Jack Keane said he recommended sending far more troops than the 21,500 envisaged in the president's plan and he also said he opposed allowing Iraqi military forces to take the leading role in the envisaged Baghdad operations. Giving Iraqi forces the lead role "makes no sense to me. I don't understand that," Keane said in his testimony [44]
      • Barry McCaffrey said "I personally think the surge of five U.S. Army brigades and a few Marine battalions dribbled out over five months is a fool's errand."
      • Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, the former head of U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which includes the Iraq theater of operations, urged a full pull-out of U.S. forces from Iraq, saying "In the Marines, we say, 'When you're in a hole, stop digging.'"
    • The AP reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in her chamber will back a nonbinding resolution "declaring that President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq is 'not in the national interest of the United States.'" The Washington Times says Pelosi "has made clear her disdain for the 'surge' proposal" since before President Bush unveiled it last week, but her latest remarks "were her first indication of the language that she will want the House to approve [45]
    • Speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi announced that despite opposition to the surge, she wouldn't push for blocking congressional funding for additional troops [46]
    • It was announced that both the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John Stennis [47] would deploy to the gulf region.

Congress has taken a stand against Bush's plan. Most Democrats and some Republicans hold that the surge will only serve to enhance violence in the Middle East.

    • George Bush gave several promotional speeches in to Belo television and Sinclair television in advance of his state of the union speech, where he "suggested it should be given a chance and challenged critical lawmakers to offer an alternative." [48]

2007 State of the Union Address

During the 2007 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 23, the president had this to say on the troop increase in Iraq, outlining their purpose in supporting the Iraqi government maintain control:

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

State Legislatures that oppose escalation

  • Progressive States Network is tracking active state level resolutions.
  • Iowa's State Senate passed a resolution opposing the surge in Feb. 2007. One chamber in California and Vermont have also gone on record to oppose the surge. Maryland's General Assembly sent a letter to its congressional delegation which was signed by a majority of the State Senate and a near majority of the State House.
  • The Rhode Island House is considering a resolution opposing the escalation: Rhode Island Legislators Oppose Iraq Escalation.
  • The New Jersey assembly passed an anti-escalation resolution by 43-0, with Republicans boycotting the vote. (Blue Jersey, March 8, 2007)

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