Counterinsurgency – a much failed strategy? (Originally published on SST in 2013. Re-published on the occasion of our 2021 defeat)

Some time ago (2009)  I was asked to encapsulate my views on the afghan policy situation.  The resulting summary is quoted below.  Since policy has clearly gone in a different direction I feel free to state my view for the record.  pl


“Bernard Fall was one of the most significant theoreticians and practitioner of Counterinsurgency (COIN) in the 20th Century.  He was the expert most listened to at the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg when LTG William Yarborough commanded the school there in the Kennedy and Johnson eras. 

Fall defined COIN clearly.  He said that:  Counterinsurgency = political reform + economic development + counter guerrilla operations 

This theory of warfare was developed by the colonial powers as a “cure” for the wave on “wars of national liberation” that swept through their overseas possessions after World War Two.  Because of these revolts against authority most of the European powers found themselves faced with colonized populations engaged in extended attempts to obtain independence from the metropole.  Such rebellions were usually based on ethnic and racial differences with the colonizers and were often led by vanguard Left parties with communist connections.  That connection caused an eventual American policy commitment to the COIN struggle. That commitment sometimes occurred as a partner of the colonial power (Vietnam in the late ‘40s and ‘50s) and sometimes as a successor to the colonial power after at least partial independence had been achieved. (Vietnam after the French) 

COIN theory was seen by both the former colonial officers who taught it at Bragg and their American disciples of the time as the opposite of the methods of the anti-colonial insurgents who were thought to practice something called “revolutionary warfare.” (RW) 

Revolutionary Warfare + Political subversion (including propaganda) + economic transformation (usually socialist) + guerilla warfare (to include terrorism) 

The central idea behind COIN was seen as competitive reformed government and economic development for the population that was at least potentially supported the insurgents RW movement.  It was believed that if this population was “protected” from the RW efforts of the insurgent movement, then the population would choose to side with the counterinsurgents whether the counterinsurgents were the local post-colonial government or an occupying power. 

This doctrine was widely applied across the world in the middle and late 20th Century.   There were successes and there were failures. 


The British suppression of the “Malayan Emergency” was probably the greatest success of the counterinsurgents.  In Malaya the British colonial authorities faced a clearly communist guerrilla movement that consisted altogether of overseas Chinese living in the midst of a majority Malay and Muslim population.  The area of operations was a peninsula nearly completely surrounded by ocean areas dominated by the British Navy.  The British forces suffered from cross department coordination issues early in the campaign, but once those were solved and the “Communist Terrorists”  (CTs) isolated  in the jungles and rubber plantations all that was needed to defeat them was persistence in small unit patrolling until the CTs were exterminated.  There were never more than a few hundred of them.  The British succeeded in suppressing this revolt but what did this successful effort gain them?  It was enormously expensive and success was followed by British withdrawal from Malaya and the creation of an independent Malaysia completely dominated by the Malay ethnic adversaries of the overseas Chinese. 

 Kenya and Cyprus were both gripped by revolts by the Kikuyu and Greek populations respectively.  In both cases, RW campaigns based on terrorism were fought to a standstill by the British only to be followed by political decisions on the part of the British government to abandon these countries and allow the ascent to power of the former leaders of the insurgencies, Kenyatta and Makarios respectively.  

In Latin America, where I participated in several COIN efforts, the Kennedy created “Alliance for Progress” sought to defeat local insurgencies inspired and led by cadres from Castro’s Cuba.  These countries were particularly good targets for communist inspired RW because the political and economic structures of the Central American and Andean states were so clearly unfair and un-democratic that local populations of underfed Indians and peasants could be easily proselytized in the process of RW.  In many cases in Latin America the low level economic development efforts of the civil and military arms of the US Government met with considerable success.  Villagers were protected from the insurgents, local (village) economies were improved.  Medical treatment was provided to those who had never known it.  Nevertheless, the “Alliance for Progress” can not be considered a strategic success.  Why?  The local elites in all these countries quickly perceived the COIN campaign as a threat to their political privilege and wealth in land and simply refused to institute the reforms sponsored by the alliance.  Much the same thing happened in various parts of Africa and Southwest Asia where it was attempted. 


The American war in Vietnam is a typical example of failure of the COIN theory.   The massive communist led Viet Minh independence movement was a classic example of RW in all its components taken to its ultimate development in the creation of a regular army for the insurgent movement under the sponsorship of its Chinese communist ally. The United States participated in the French COIN effort against the Viet Minh and then became the sponsor of the post-colonial government left behind by the French on their departure.  Contrary to popular legend (I served there for two years) the initial approach of the United States to the situation in South Vietnam was pure COIN right out of the Ft. Bragg School.  Populations of villagers were protected, the South Vietnamese armed forces were developed, village militias were created for self defense, good government was preached to the Diem government in Saigon.  Economic development was fostered.  It was only when the government of North Vietnam decided that these methods were a serious bar to their eventual success in RW in the South and brought its regular army into South Vietnam in 1964 that US forces escalated their own deployment to the conventional war level.  This was a necessary step if the eradication of the South Vietnamese government and the US COIN effort was to be avoided.  There followed three years of conventional warfare between US and North Vietnamese forces.  This warfare was largely conducted outside populated areas.  COIN efforts continued during this period but took second place to the need to defeat or at least seriously weaken North Vietnam’s army.  In 1967 it was judged that this had been accomplished and COIN was once again made the centerpiece of American efforts in Vietnam.  To accomplish this, a fully integrated civil/military COIN structure was created under the combined military command in Vietnam.  This was called “Civil Operations, Revolutionary Development Support.”  (CORDS)  I worked in this program for a year.  (1968-1969) This effort had virtually unlimited money, ten thousand advisers in every aspect of Vietnamese civil society, business and government function and a massive coalition and south Vietnamese conventional force standing by to protect the population and the counterinsurgents of CORDS while they did their work.  This COIN program was largely successful.  A handover to the South Vietnamese forces was devised in the form of the “Vietnamization Program” and US forces were withdrawn in “trenches” (slices) over a couple of years.  Following the Christmas, 1972 renewed bombing effort over North Vietnam (caused by North Vietnamese intransigence in Geneva) a ceasefire was reached and for two years there was quiet in South Vietnam with the South Vietnamese government holding much of the country.   It was only after some minor incident on the world stage caused a revulsion in the American press and public against any further involvement in Vietnam that the US Congress passed a law forbidding any further aid to South Vietnam that the North Vietnamese decided to use their fine army to over run the country in a conventional war.  Lesson – You can win the COIN war and still be defeated conventionally or politically at home. 

The French war in Algeria is another example of COIN success followed by political defeat and withdrawal.  After a prolonged struggle, the French security force had largely defeated the Algerian native guerrillas of the Front National de Liberation (FLN).  This struggle had been waged with all the aspects of classic COIN doctrine.  The revolt had started in 1955. By 1960 the French Army, police and their Algerian allies had largely won the fight.  As in Vietnam, two years then passed in relative quiet.  In 1962 De Gaulle was elected president of France with a political vision that required independence for Algeria.  That negated all the struggle and success of the CIIN war.  Failure once again at the strategic level. 

Our war in Iraq is now cited as an example of the success of the COIN theory and its methods.  In fact nothing of the sort occurred in Iraq.  Remember – COIN = political reform + economic development + counter-guerilla operations.  We have not brought on political reform in Iraq.  What we have done is re-arrange the “players” in such a way that the formerly downtrodden Shia Arabs are now the masters.  This has in no way reduced the potential for inter-communal armed struggle.  We did not defeat the insurgents in counter guerrilla operations.  What we did was bring more troops into the Baghdad area to enforce the separation of the ethno-sectarian communities while at the same time using traditional methods of “divide and conquer” to split off enough insurgents to form an effective force to use against Al-Qa’ida in Iraq and others whom we disapproved of.  This is not counterinsurgency!!! 


COIN is a badly flawed instrument of statecraft:  Why? 

– The locals ultimately own the country being fought over.  If they do not want the “reforms” you desire, they will resist you as we have been resisted in Iraq and Afghanistan.  McChrystal’s strategy paper severely criticized Karzai’s government.  Will that disapproval harden into a decision to act to find a better government or will we simply undercut Afghan central government and become the actual government? 

– Such COIN wars are expensive, long drawn out affairs that are deeply debilitating for the foreign counterinsurgent power.  Reserves of money, soldiers and national will are not endless.  Ultimately, the body politic of the counterinsurgent foreign power turns against the war and then all that has occurred has been a waste. 

– COIN theory is predicated on the ability of the counterinsurgents to change the mentality of the “protected” (read controlled) population.  The sad truth is that most people do not want to be deprived of their ancestral ways and will fight to protect them.  “Hearts and Minds” is an empty propagandist’s phrase. 

– In the end the foreign counterinsurgent is embarked on a war that is not his own war.  For him, the COIN war will always be a limited war, fought for a limited time with limited resources.  For the insurgent, the war is total war.  They have no where to escape to after a tour of duty.  The psychological difference is massive. 

– For the counterinsurgent the commitment of forces must necessarily be much larger than for the insurgents.  The counterinsurgent seeks to protect massive areas, hundreds of built up areas and millions of people.  The insurgent can pick his targets.   The difference in force requirements is crippling to the counterinsurgents.

What should we do?

 – Hold the cities as bases to prevent a recognized Taliban government until some satisfactory (to us) deal is made among the Afghans. 

– Participate in international economic development projects for Afghanistan. 

– Conduct effective clandestine HUMINT out of the city bases against international jihadi elements. 

– Turn the tribes against the jihadi elements.

– Continue to hunt and kill/capture dangerous jihadis, 

How long might you have to follow this program?  It might be a long time but that would be sustainable.  A full-blown COIN campaign in Afghanistan is not politically sustainable. 

W. Patrick Lang”

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47 Responses to Counterinsurgency – a much failed strategy? (Originally published on SST in 2013. Re-published on the occasion of our 2021 defeat)

  1. walrus says:

    “A full-blown COIN campaign in Afghanistan is not politically sustainable. ”
    But there is much money to be made and honours to be received until the kissing stops.

  2. VietnamVet says:

    I am surprised. I agree with the facts in your paper. We’ve observed the Elephant though I was towards the tail and you were near the trunk.
    In any invasion if the opponent is not conquered but has resources and safe havens, the conflict will continue until the occupier gives up and leaves. Afghanistan is approaching the conditions of the 100 Years War, a cultural invasion with lots of mercenaries; and Henry the Fifth or Obama-Bush, “Once more into the Breech, Dear Friends. Once More”.
    No more than the English or Germans could conquer the French; Americans have even less of a chance of defeating the Afghans.
    Conflict breeds religious fanatics. The only way to tamp them down is by containment, development, education, police, the rule of law and, most of all, peace.

    • guidoamm says:

      Development, as indeed the rule of law are not universal concepts. That is the fundamental reason why Western adventures inevitably fail and the reason the Colonel points out that Western “strategy” sorely lacks a fundamental understanding of culture.

      The concept of “law” varies greatly between societies because each has evolved in different socio/cultural/religious contexts over the centuries. Similarly, Western concepts of “development” do not resonate with Afghan society so that, for example, spending money to bring about gender equality is a fool’s errand. A very profitable fool’s errand for the constellation of (Western) NGOs and their local enablers that make a living doing just that, but a fool’s errand nonetheless.

  3. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “COIN is a badly flawed instrument of statecraft: Why?
    – The locals ultimately own the country being fought over. If they do not want the “reforms” you desire, they will resist you…. truth is that most people do not want to be deprived of their ancestral ways and will fight to protect them.”
    Yes, thus, a low key and minimalist approach as recommended above was a reasonable policy option for Obama.
    As that policy option has been discarded, for whatever combination of reasons and factors, policy failure and mission failure are on the horizon, IMO.
    Will such (inevitable) failure be enough to alter the dynamics of US politics for 2012? Combined with a bad economic situation?
    Obama as a one term president?
    As a Carter with Republicans winning the White House in 2012? As a Johnson challenged from within his own party? Hillary then to the fore?
    What will be the attitude of international financial circles, other world leaders and elites, etc.? Mission failure in Afghanistan would seem to be a factor poised to further weaken the dollar and the US economy. We can note the economic and social consequences, “stagfalation” and domestic unrest, of Johnson’s escalation to derive appropriate “lessons learned.”

  4. JAC says:

    OUTSTANDING Analysis! This needs further play with the Puzzle Palace, MSM and the blogosphere.

  5. Charles I says:

    “until some satisfactory (to us) deal is made among the Afghans.”
    And yet the Taliban at the end of our day, will have to be incorporated into an eventual governance structure. That presumably would aspire to monopoly status regarding the use of organized coercive mechanized violence within its domain(s).
    I agree you could secure what you have, corrupt warts and all, and pick the jihadis off, but where’s the drug trade in all this – the dope’s grown outside the cities. Supply lines ore outside the perimeters. The Durrand line is a long way from nowhere except where the jihadis are.
    In the end we’re paying the urbanized to escape the contested hinterlands and deal with our incessant demands for change in it, while we, er, our soldiers, be they volunteers, draftees or mercenaries, shoot at it.
    I do recall from contracts that satisfactory, or satisfaction guaranteed, were mere terms of advertising art, meaningless puffery so subjective in nature and quality so as to be legally incomprehensible let alone ascertainable and hence, more to the point, completely unenforceable.
    We are there.
    The future is more war on the border.

  6. peg says:

    i have nothing intelligent to add to the conversation. i am just commenting because i always learn something here. thank you, Col Lang — and commenters!

  7. DCA says:

    Hard to disagree, and thanks for providing the background. Your
    comments on Latin America brought to mind one case where the US did act
    against elite wishes and undertake land reform: Japan, where MacArthur
    imposed it. I experienced Japanese remembering and praising this forty years
    later. Unfortunately the subsequent association of land reform with Communism
    seems to have made it anathema to US policy.
    Reading a history of the 60’s decision to become more involved in
    Vietnam, it seems like there are plenty of parallels on the DC end. Whenever
    the JCS were asked what to do about some problem in Vietnam, their answers
    seem to have always involved more troops and/or nukes. They never said,
    “the solution to this problem lies mostly in other parts of the government”;
    still less “adding more resources costs more, in blood and tresure, than
    the added benefits to the US”.
    In a democracy, the public eventually makes that final cost/benefit
    call–as you say, it doesn’t seem like the policy being followed will
    pass that test.

  8. SAC Brat says:

    I’ve been told from someone who lived in northern Thailand during the seventies that the Thai government was able to resist the the communists by addressing the “political reform + economic development” variables in the COIN equation that the communists were trying to exploit. Supposedly Thai soldiers worked to observe the communists but avoid direct conflict that might drive more people to the communist’s side. Is any of this accurate or was it a local observance? I think Thai nationalism and the communists being against the king may have been factors in the communists losing favor also.

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. It was a small scale COIN effort conducted in villages within the assigned area of operations of their units in the north.
    It was dwarfed by CORDS which operated within the same provinces. pl

  10. JohnH says:

    Agreed that NORMALLY “COIN wars are expensive, long drawn out affairs that are deeply debilitating for the foreign counterinsurgent power.”
    What’s different this time around is that those effects have yet to be felt by mainstream America. Policymakers discovered how to fight a “cost free” war. Doubling military funding was underwritten by raiding the Social Security Trust Fund and by Chinese loans. The war was fought by volunteer forces. There is no draft and no war tax to generate opposition.
    But all that is about to change. More troops are needed, and there is no obvious source but a draft. More money is needed, which will have to come from four problematic sources–more dependence on China, increasing taxes, cutting benefits (Social Security, Medicare), or printing money. Policymakes have so far avoided telling us which bad choice is being adopted and continue to postpone opposition.
    But it is clear that the Afghan policy is bumping up against Americans’ priorities. Some Senators have actually proposed delaying health care reform so that the money could be used for Afghanistan! But postponing Obama’s health care initiative would threaten Democrats’ chances of reelection. For the moment the money for more war will come from somewhere, but no one knows where that is. But time is running out. The chickens are about to come home to roost. Those debilitating effects will be felt. And the impact will be severe because the bubble of war debt has been allowed to accumulate for so long.

  11. SJPONeill says:

    We misuse the phrase ‘COIN’ when we really mean something much broader like the phrase developed by the Marines ‘Counteirng Irregular Threats (CIT)’ or the UK ‘Countering Irregular Activity CIA’ of which COIN is a subset. COIN strategies, especially the purist ‘hearts and minds approach’, do not always translate well into strategies for other types of campaigns against other forms of destabilising activities. A successful CIT/CIA programme may never get to the stage of requiring a kinetic military option if the developing issues are caught early. The two essentials to CIT/CIA are a comprehensive approach involved all branches of government + NGO + corporate/commercial agencies; AND a clear and lucid understanding of the specific environment for any specific theatre including very clear strategic endstates. Without these two prerequisites, failure is almost a given.
    So in terms of COIN, let’s not blame the tools until we have taken a good hard look at the tradesmen…

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    We occupied Japan. We were the government. That makes a huge difference.
    The same thing was true of the Phillipines. We knocked the nationalists flat and then did COIN for forty years. pl

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    Come on! What do you think this is, a game to be played by academics in journals? pl

  14. SJPONeill says:

    Absolutely – our blogs are simply extensions of that arena – and that is not necessarily a bad thing – healthy debate and fresh ideas are surely more beneficial than the old days of concepts and doctrine developed in isolation in the back rooms of national military institutions?
    The campaign in Afghanistan has dragged on for years without clearly defined goals or objectives; nor I would offer, much in the way of impartial analysis as to what THAT environment needed to meet any objectives post-destruction of AQ training camps and cadres, apart from ‘attack the bad guys’ and do some of that ‘reconstruction stuff’. There wasn’t a broad spectrum JIIM approach to the campaign, contrary to just about anyone’s COIN/CIT/CIA doctrine – it was military-led and even the surge is a military option which is unlikely to secure an environment safe for NGOs etc in 18-24 months.
    Your five points most likely are sustainable but to what end? The eventual demise of the Taliban? Sustained and uncorrupt democracy in Afghanistan? Securing PAK nukes from AQ et al? Securing this part of the GWOT and moving on to the next theatre?
    There wasn’t an insurgency when OEF started so treating it as a COIN campaign is somewhat moot. If OEF became the cause of the insurgency, then the solution is pretty obvious. If the US/NATO move on to the next campaign how many of the current Taliban fighters will remain in Afghanistan? Of course, that will leave Afghanistan in much the same state it was in the early 90s but it the big scheme of third world nations going down the gurgler, is trying to fix that worth the price in blood or treasure?

  15. Cold War Zoomie says:

    It’s all fine and dandy to evaluate whether or not the right decision was made. Bottom line: the decision is made, and the troops are doing what they always do – going where they are told to go.
    At my new job I don’t support our troops in that part of the world. But I sure do hope those “bad guys” in the field keep yakking it up on those nifty radios.
    The only choice now is to support our folks in the field as best as possible within the parameters of their mission.

  16. J. says:

    @SJPO – “Your five points most likely are sustainable but to what end?”
    Different question requires a different answer. I think what COL Lang appropriately points out is that one needs to develop a strategy that is tied to resources. If you really, really think that COIN is the operational underpinning of your success, then you need to know up front that you’re in for a decade and plan accordingly. As the computer said in “War Games,” the best move is not to play. But if your govt intends to play, resourcing it at $100 billion a year and hundreds of dead and wounded soldiers is not sustainable.
    A man (and a govt) has to know its limitations.

  17. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “Nevertheless, the “Alliance for Progress” can not be considered a strategic success. Why? The local elites in all these countries quickly perceived the COIN campaign as a threat to their political privilege and wealth in land and simply refused to institute the reforms sponsored by the alliance.”
    Yes, and also the local elites stole Alliance for Progress funds, allocated such funds to relatives and friends for juicy contracts, and the like. Illicit gains in Latin America are typically offshored in European or US financial institutions.
    Where do the present Afghan (and Pak) elites offshore their ill gotten gains (from drugs, stolen US funds etc.) these days? Asia? Europe?
    Is drug money, for example, providing liquidity in the international banking system these days? How much?
    Anyone recall the BCCI scandal?

  18. Jim Montgomery says:

    I first encountered Bernard Fall when I was a brand new foreign service officer in 1958 in the introductory course at the Foreign Service Institute. He was lecturing on Viet-Nam and countering the insurgents.
    To illustrate the difficulties American were going to have in countering the insurgents he showed a clip from a recent TV news show where a US correspondent was interviewing, via a Vietnamese interpreter, some farmers. The exchange went this way:
    Reporter: Are there many Viet Cong around here?
    Interpreter to the farmer in Vietnamese: Would you please be so kind as to count to ten?
    Farmer in Vietnamese: One, two, three, four, etc., etc.
    Interpreter to American reporter in English: He says there are many Viet Cong around here but he and his friends oppose them and support the Diem government.
    After the introductory course, I went on with three colleagues to study Vietnamese full time for nine months before going to the Embassy in Saigon in July of 1960. I spent most of my time reporting on Diem’s land reform efforts and saw first hand that if the local elite did not want to give up their privileges, there was nothing we could do to the stop them.
    I think of that farmer every time I hear about the civilian surge coming in Afghanistan.
    Jim Montgomery

  19. N. M. Salamon says:

    The rejection of the Colonel’s view on Afganistan will run into:
    agriculture will need the oil the USAQ wastes in Afganistan.

  20. DE Teodoru says:

    Permit me to add a most thoughtful article:
    I draw it to your attention because it bespeaks the flaws in the “new” COIN book– I say “new” in quotes for a number of academics deem it a mere plagiary (I’ll leave that for later discussion). When Bernard Fall stepped on a mine my heart sank indeed for we lost one of our better thinking historians, but neither the best nor the only. He had the good sense not to over-abstract beyond Indochina, but for some abstractions from wide reading on Algeria and others. When you’re a company commander with the ability to call air and ground ordnance then you can sort of afford to simplify. The Petraeus thesis on Vietnam by comparison makes one wonder how well would he have gotten along in Vietnam with only a concealed side arm walking among “natives” as so many of the Lansdale team did. For them being intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb was America’s biggest sin but no one listened until we just quit two decades later. In truth there is no COIN learning for we are on a momentum starting with a push from ex-Leninist neocons who sought indiscriminate smashing of Muslims– Arabs in particular– only because that’s good for Israel. Hence we went from Afghanistan to Iraq and back to Afghanistan following a boiler plate manual that Petraeus imposed by playing media politics. All the other generals went quiet. Only McMaster stood up to say that we should fight the right war in th right way rather than drunk of formulas. But he disappeared into the camouflage wall they wear at Army school and McChrystal is the new “golden boy” putting before us a carbon copy of Petraeus– it’s good for McChrystal and its good for Petraeus– but is good for our soldiers stolen from their families just before Christmas? What does it matter for America doesn’t care as it suffers from “ain’t my kid going to war” disconnect syndrome. So a couple of Midwestern Republican Senators are loud mouthing McChrystal’s “we need more shooters” case: very simply, YOU CHOSE HIM, MR. OBAMA, SO DO WHAT HE TELLS YOU TO DO. That’s more of the “ain’t my kid…” disconnect syndrome to make Obama the hated “ni…er” whom the “teabaggers” think shouldn’t be in the White House. Bravo, Petraeus/McChrystal and company did intimidate him and we are indeed suffering a mini-Seven Days in May because Obama ain’t Truman. But read Stewart’s article and see if you would want your biologic kid wasted in such a cesspool, shooting people until finally OUR victims are avenged one tribe at a time. The sending of soldiers to do the job that the neocons interrupted 8 years ago for their pet project, Iraq, will be avenged but by then the neocons will all be dead and innocents will suffer the retribution. In the end we are as ahistoric as the Taliban, only in a more sophisticated way. We write COIN manuals without a rear view mirror. Old Bernie must be tossing in his grave, having given up so much to teach so little.

  21. Speaking of political reform as a predicate to COIN the British news mag a week or so back had an amazing and depressing article on the current context of “Politics” in AFGHANISTAN and Pakistan also. If accurate looks to me like the COIN train will soon be off the track.

  22. The Twisted Genius says:

    Discussions of COIN almost inevitably describe an action that we, or our allies, do to others. Other than in jihadist literature, we seldom get to see COIN from the point of view of those who are at the receiving end of COIN… especially a point of view that most SST readers can actually relate to in a sympathetic manner. Here is a description of the Lithuanian resistance to Soviet occupation that I found on a web site created by a young Lithuanian heavy metal enthusiast sometime around the year 2000. It’s still available at:
    I believe this illustrates some of Colonel Lang’s points about why COIN is a “badly flawed instrument of statecraft.” Stalin strove to impose the “socialist paradise” version of economic development and political reform on Lithuania while conducting violently brutal counter guerilla operations. The Lithuanian insurgents were fighting for their very souls and, decades later, prevailed.
    “The date of World War Two 1939-1945 is not correct! Here in Lithuania WW2 never ended in 1945! Stalin and Hitler started this war by signing a pact in 23.08.1939. All 3 Baltic States was the one of the first and the last victims of WW2. World War Two to all Lithuanians ended only in 1993, when the last soldier of Russian occupation forces has left our soil. In 1944-1953 we still have had WW2 in Lithuania – the vast armed resistance against outnumbered Red Army NKVD troops. 23.000 Lithuanian Freedom Fighters fell – they never surrender alive (this was unwritten rule). The most common way to do so was to burn all underground documents first, and to blow a grenade, as closer to the face, as possible. Because Russian bandits used to expose publicly remains of Forest Brothers (naking their dead bodies, disgracing them) in the main squares of towns and villages of occupied Lithuania for a weeks long. Mainly in front of NKVD headquarters. They forced local people to pass by. And if someone’s mother, sister, sweetheart or wife could not stand not to show a shadow of grief, they were arrested to be sent to Siberia. Forest Brothers were forced to forget their real names and use pseudonyms for the safety of the members of their families, or what was left of them… Russians called them “bandits”, but occupied nation named them “Forest Brothers”, “Greens”, “Lithuanian Partisans”, supported them with shelter and food. Upon possibility, they were wearing Lithuanian army uniforms, acting under strict commands of their officers. Living underground in well covered underground bunkers in forests and farms. The average term of staying alive in such conditions was 2 years only. Few managed to survive longer. The last one – legendary SIAUBUNAS was shot dead only in 1965, fighting and waiting for Free Democracies to come with the help. Was it right to help them?
    Was it right to stop mass suffering of 1,5 million people from Kosovo a short time ago?!… Seeing on TV this endless line of thousands refugees forced from their own homes in Kosovo reminded me something. We – approximately twice as big population, as of Kosovo, did suffer the same kind of cleansing in occupied Lithuania. But there were some differences. It was year 1941; 1945-65 but not 1999. It was not paramilitary or military Serbs, but Russian NKVD (KGB ancestors) divisions. It was not Slobodan but Stalin. There were no military, or at least, moral support for Lithuanian partisan war against Soviet Union Army, till the last one was shot dead in 1965. More than 23.000 of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters have died, fighting and hiding in the forests and desperately waiting for any sign of possible help from Democratic countries. And there was none… And there was none even humanitarian support from Stalin allies – USA, UK, France… to help our nation settle down in Siberian labour camps. We were left completely alone to stand this. And we did.
    I had the echo of the same feeling in 13th of January of 1991, while standing unarmed in front of our just freely elected Parliament in Vilnius and waiting for modern NKVD troops to enter, and any support from powerful Democracies… This all history already. And Lithuania is hardly working to restore its democracy, economy to join EU and NATO. But Lithuanians would better prefer to beat Russians and Serbs in Basketball arenas but not real war… How lucky Kosovo Albanians are that they were not left alone. I think everyone from those 23.000 of Lithuanian partisans would agree with this.
    There was Nuremberg trial to punish Fascism for its crimes. It’s time for Communism in the name of it’s more than 100.000.000 victims to do so. If you have some doubts about facts or numbers, please go to Vilnius to The International Congress on Evaluation of Crimes of Communism.
    I’ve started this project “Heavy Metal in Lithuania” not as amateur historian, but as an artist. Sorry to say, but there is a gap and lack of information, attention and respect for those, who remain in proud standing, when others shamelessly fell on their knees… The Younger generation is really missoriented by the well done propaganda, led mainly from Moscow. I just want to show our Freedom Fighters in a different light. I’ve put this site in Top 100 LT ranking in Music category, to point to the kids, that there were heroes in Lithuania living next door, underground… And they looked really cool, much better, than some metal music bands. Imagine the electric guitars, but not guns, in their hands, and you’ll find those images very familiar… I remember the time (10 years ago) when having such a Forest Brother picture was extremely dangerous and could led to KGB prison. So many of such photos of our heroes were simply destroyed. Some were found in KGB archives in Vilnius. Some of them with other partisan documents are still hiding somewhere underground in metal cases, waiting for some lucky coincidence to be uncovered.
    Concerning first “hippie” movement this is other issue about our resistance. I was touched by philosophy of hippie movement during my younger years. The sacrifice of Romas Kalanta and events in Kaunas, following it, was our Woodstock. It gave me a lot of inspiration for my following art and political activity. I’m pretty sure, that while living on the very edge (without LSD or other drugs), they really first caught the wind of Freedom, that have came to Free World a bit later in late 60-ties. One of the main signs of it was long hair, as form of protest to the surrounding society and image of free men… So they were the very first hippies for sure! And they set us free!”

  23. DE Teodoru says:

    I don’t how “twisted” you are but you sure are a genius. May I please diseminate your post further?

  24. samuelburke says:

    the track record for the coin doctrine is a proven failure.
    the imperialist mindset that has taken over the united states has finally made americans hated (ridiculed) the world over…now that the money is running out ( indebted beyond our ability to pay) respect or should i say subservience will no longer be forthcoming from the rest of the nations that once used to play along to get along.
    the debtor becomes the slave to the lender.
    but we do have the biggest badest military on the planet and that is something that americans need to fear more than the rest of the world.
    hard lessons are never learned they are experienced only.

  25. samuelburke says:

    Third World nationalism ought to be respected by the american hegemon.
    hegemony=2 : the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.
    when the american revolution took place it was a Third World nationalist movement.
    coin is an outcrop of a hegemonic world view whose aim is to invade by colonization any third world nation whose resources the hegemon wishes to appropriate, for strategic geographic reasons as in placing missiles or bases, or for the natural resources themselves.
    our constitution does not allow for these interventions.
    so lets consciously agree that we want to nullify the constitution of these united states first before we discuss the merits of a policy ( coin=intervention), that breaches the spirit of that document.

  26. JohnH says:

    Twisted Genius raises an important point. The Occupier places its hopes and dreams in Pacification, COIN, or the latest new buzz word. They believe that a time will come when all will be settled, the terrorists finally rooted out. But the Lithuanian example shows that that time is NEVER. Resistance waxes and wanes, but never disappears.
    Meanwhile, the Occupier gets preoccupied by other things–other Occupations, economic problems, rivalries with other nations, political “softness,” etc. The more peoples it occupies, the more likely two or more are going to rise up at the same time, perhaps coincident with other problems the Occupier must deal with.
    The Occupied have a single preeminent problem to focus on. The Occupier has a multitude. The ultimate advantage eventually goes to the Occupied.
    In the case of Iraq, the Occupier hopes that it won’t happen while there is still abundant oil to be exploited there.

  27. Charles I says:

    Further to my drug war focus, here’s the
    “Trail of Afghanistan’s drug money exposed’
    from Asia Times today.
    It reports that:
    “The total revenue generated by opiates within Afghanistan is about $3.4 billion per year. Of this figure, according to UNODC, the Taliban get only 4% of the sum. Farmers, meanwhile, get 21%.
    And the remaining 75%? Al-Qaeda? No: The report specifies that it “does not appear to have a direct role in the Afghan opiates trade,” although it may participate in “low-level drugs and/or arms smuggling” along the Pakistani border.
    Instead, the remaining 75% is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional power brokers and traffickers – in short, many of the groups now supported (or tolerated) by the United States and NATO are important actors in the drug trade.”
    Like I wrote before, there’s a lot of baksheesh? is it? to go around – 75% of $3.4bn it says, to the locals. Good luck dislodging them and their aspiring successors, no matter who “wins”, who “rules”.

  28. WP says:

    Supplementing Clifford Kiracofe’s post, there is an eye-openong book on the subject by Alan Friedman, The Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq. If the link works, a review can be found at
    If the link does not work, then just Google to find the book. Copies are scarce and hard to get. Some powerful people did not like the book.
    The book is a worthy read if you can find a copy.

  29. The Twisted Genius says:

    DE Teodoru
    You may diseminate my post as far as you want. Just remember that the long quote came from the “Heavy Metal in Lithuania” website.
    There was an interesting report on RT (Russia Today) this evening about the former President Rolandas Paksas of Lithuania accusing the CIA of orchestrating his 2004 impeachment because he refused to host a secret prison when first asked to do so in 2003. He was replaced by former U.S. Army Colonel Adamkus and the CIA was then allowed in. The RT report also mentioned a CIA money transfer through Lithuania to support a regime change attempt in Belarus. I want to here more than this one RT report before I accept this as absolute truth, but my first thought was just an exasperated, “son of a bitch!”

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Charles I,
    Another question for careful analysis is just where does the money go? That is, where do these billions of dollars (or whatever currency) go?
    More precisely, into which banks and bank accounts? And then how do they move around the world?
    My colleague and friend, Jack Blum the lead investigator for the Democrat side, and I for the Republican side, had to deal with this issue some years ago when we were working in the Senate of the United States/Committee on Foreign Relations. We had several related investigations which dealt with illicit funds including: aspects of the Iran-Contra case plus the huge BCCI case. The multi-volume public committee reports on BCCI are quite revealing.
    In our wide-ranging investigations we found that vast amounts of drug related funds easily moved through the international banking system. Only a relatively small part of our findings were made public. About all I can say in public, even today, is that there were very well known big name “money center” banks in New York who were implicated (in closed door session testimony) in knowingly laundering vast amounts of narcotics related (cocaine etc.) funds from South America. Many hundreds of millions of dollars…
    I well recall the day Jack walked across the hall in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to tell me how Washington “super-lawyer” Clark Clifford finally had weighed in personally to shut down and suppress parts of our investigation (BCCI related). The late Clark Clifford was covering for his banking budies and certain of his own arrangements.
    Among many fascinating aspects was the case of Panama and its dictator Manuel Noriega. The cocaine mafias derived hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars IN CASH in the US from drug sales. Drug sales are cash and carry. This generated physically tons of US currency stateside. What to do? How to launder all this physical currency?
    You have to take all the cash, sort it, count it, and bundle it. Then, according to testimony we recieved, the narcomafia folks would load the bundled physical cash onto pallets, seal these, and then place the sealed pallets of cash into air freight containers. Thus packed, cargo planes flew to Panama where the local currency is (conveniently for many purposes) US dollars. From the airport, the air freight containers had escort to the central bank where the narco money was specially processed and the various narcomafias’ international accounts were appropriately credited.
    And how about those narcoterrorist organizations in, say, Colombia? Where does their cash go? How are their funds managed…billions of dollars, that is? Maybe by certain European banks? Continental European banks…
    So today, why do the UN narcotics folks refuse to reveal the names of international banks who presently are managing the Taliban and Al Qaeda narcomoney accounts????
    I will say that the US has a very excellent and professional organization called FINCEN which, as part of our Treasury Department, is involved in financial intelligence and law enforcement.

  31. Perhaps our objective should not be to counter insurgency but rather to tame it – to encourage it along paths that we would find to be constructive/agreeable rather than destructive/disagreeable.
    As food for thought along these lines, consider the following, which discusses the civil rights movement as an insurgency.:

    Perspectives: March 18, 2009
    “Why the Civil Rights Movement was an Insurgency, and Why it Matters”
    Mark S. Grimsley, Ph.D.Harold K. Johnson Visiting Professor of Military History, U.S. Army War College
    Most Americans fail to appreciate that the Civil Rights movement was about the overthrow of an entrenched political order in each of the Southern states, that the segregationists who controlled this order did not hesitate to employ violence (law enforcement, paramilitary, mob) to preserve it, and that for nearly a century the federal government tacitly or overtly supported the segregationist state governments. That the Civil Rights movement employed nonviolent tactics should fool us no more than it did the segregationists, who correctly saw themselves as being at war. Significant change was never going to occur within the political system: it had to be forced. The aim of the segregationists was to keep the federal government on the sidelines. The aim of the Civil Rights movement was to “capture” the federal government — to get it to apply its weight against the Southern states. As to why it matters: a major reason we were slow to grasp the emergence and extent of the insurgency in Iraq is that it didn’t –and doesn’t — look like a classic insurgency. In fact, the official Department of Defense definition of insurgency still reflects a Vietnam era understanding of the term. Looking at the Civil Rights movement as an insurgency is useful because it assists in thinking more comprehensively about the phenomenon of insurgency and assists in a more complete –and therefore more useful — definition of the term.

    Of course conditions in the early 20th Century American South differ from today’s Afghanistan, but the point rather is that – rather than attempt to convert Muslims to our way of being – we should instead try to figure out how Muslims can do their Muslim thing in a manner that we can live with.

  32. The Twisted Genius says:

    Dr. Kiracofe,
    Your points about narco-money, how it moves and what it does are spot on. Whether it’s a major threat to our way of life or a major enabler of our way of life is open to debate. Several blogs have mentioned a recent article from the Observer concerning narco financing. “Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations’ drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.”
    I’d like to know who really benefits from the drug industry in Afghanistan. Whoever does certainly would not want to see the Taliban return to power and squash poppy production as they did the last time they were in Kabul. Would FINCEN have any insights into this?

  33. JohnH says:

    Per Kiracofe. Andres Oppenheimer, an editor at the Miami Herald, has written about corruption in Latin America: “Ojos Vendados: Estados Unidos y el negocio de la corrupcion en America Latina” (curiously appears not to be available in English, though it was a best seller throughout Latin America).
    His investigations often reach a dead end at the doors of international banks’ tiny offices in the Caribbean.
    American banks argue that they need secrecy to remain “competitive.”
    American politicians are willing to sacrifice the drug war to the wishes of their underwriters in the financial sector. Sound familiar?
    Why should Afghanistan be any different?

  34. Charles I says:

    Clifford, I found the most fascinating thing about the whole BCCI imbroglio to be the seldom mentioned role of the Australian Bank of Nugan Hand, and its direct connections to the CIA, its role as the intelligence/criminal interface. I have a book specifically on Nugan Hand, but just can’t locate it at the moment to cite. One has to imagine that the US/UK/Aus intel alliance still needs to operate in the shadows, and that Iran-Contra merely demonstrated the need for better insulation and deniability. Independant income from illicit activities is perfect for this purpose. I sure would like to have been a fly on the Wall as the KGB and the CPSU arranged the disposition of their booty during the collapse of the USSR, they muswt have billions out there.
    I’d also like to be able to read French so I could read tour GPU history as well.
    As to why the UN narcotics folks refuse name banks who managethe Taliban and Al Qaeda narcomoney accounts?, my belief is that narcotics and national security trumps counter-narcotics and crime every time, and that these decisons are made at the Cabinet level. That is, your Executive branch, or some element that can manipulate it, just doesn’t like its, or many others, laundry aired.

  35. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Twisted Genius,
    1. There are many interesting things about the various Baltic resistance movements. An acquaintance of mine’s father was a “Forest Brother.” Some years ago, I made it a point to visit Karelia in Finland in dead winter to move through the countryside and snowdrifts in that border region. Ulmanis went to the University of Nebraska… our old observation post for Soviet Russia was Riga. [Within this old history, are you familiar with “Prometheus”?]
    2. Actually much of the of the Afghan narcotics trade profits Pakistan elites, military and civilian. etc. Regional observers, such as the Indians, are not unfamiliar with all of this. I will say that a certain official from France had the bright idea to foment the heroin trade in Afghanistan so as to cause internal problems for the Soviets…and we can see the blowback from that and other stupid Cold War schemes masquerading as policy out that way like the jihadi “international brigades.” No doubt some tyro got that idea reading about the Spanish Civil War…???
    Charles I,
    Several billion of rubles ran through Cyprus and etc. it was said. I presume large portions are still parked outside Russia somewhere for operational purposes.
    A very significant heroin route from Afghanistan was/is through Chechnya, thence out to Europe via Turkey/Cyprus and all that.
    I have not yet read through all the UN reports and there may well be some quite relevant data in them. But the guilty banks should, of course, be named in public.
    Haven’t read Oppenheimer’s book but, in the investigations I worked on, we worked very hard to provide Senators with signficant and actionable data and analysis on such matters.
    The American public should be confident that it is within the power of the USG to obtain a vast amount of relevant information. We have highly professional, dedicated, and patriotic men and woman working on these matters. Stuart Levey, Treasury Under-Secretary for Enforcement, for example, has been courageous and outspoken concerning various threats to the US and the folks at FINCEN provide an invaluable support to our national security activity.
    What the politicians on Capitol Hill and in the White House choose to do is another question, however. I did not include the story about Clark Clifford for nothing…

  36. Charles I says:

    Clifford, Re:
    Where do the present Afghan (and Pak) elites offshore their ill gotten gains (from drugs, stolen US funds etc.) these days? Asia? Europe?
    Is drug money, for example, providing liquidity in the international banking system these days? How much?”
    I have found some older material about PROMIS, a magical software that could read any data, in any form in any language, transmit and combine it with other data across many platforms – a universal oracle later further developed with artificial intelligence. It has been widely disseminated in many forms with a unique ability to penetrate whole banking systems via legitimate applications, but surely with sub rosa capabilities and a backdoor to call home.
    “Promis by Michael C. Ruppert”, an extract below.
    I urge you to read the whole detailed story bearing mind the following. Ruppert appears to be an expose-illegal-government-renegade-tilter-at-windmills with some tangential personal involvement and consequence, he runs the expose-CIA-misdeeds website From The Wilderness.
    I can’t vouch for his very detailed story, but I do have tangential knowledge of at least the existence of the PROMIS affair and the hint of esoteric sub rosa banking and intelligence implications. I am cognizant of decades old Canadian litigation indirectly touching on PROMIS and the alleged creator Bill Hamilton, now President of Washington, D.C.’s Inslaw Corporation, contesting some arcane technical matter of critical importance that was mysteriously derailed resulting in an apparent legal injustice without civil remedy.
    Anyway this excerpt offers a glimpse into a perhaps very compromised banking system. You cannot hide $600bn in dope money.
    “Bill McCoy, had his investigative fingers in almost everything but he was most involved with Promis. McCoy was a retired Chief Warrant Officer from the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. He had broken some of the biggest cases in Army history. . .
    [I]n the same winter of 94-95, McCoy revealed to me that he was using former Green Berets to conduct physical surveillance of the Washington, D.C. offices of Microsoft in connection with the Promis case. FTW has, within the last month, received information indicating that piracy of Microsoft products at the GE Aerospace Herndon facility were likely tied to larger objectives, possibly the total compromise of any Windows based product. It is not by chance that most of the military and all of the intelligence agencies in the U.S. now operate on Macintosh systems.
    In late 1996 Tyree mailed me a detailed set of diagrams and a lengthy narrative explaining the exact hows and whys of the murder of Danny Casolaro and an overall view of the Promis saga that is not only consistent with what is described by Seymour in The Last Circle but also provides many new details. Asked about Mike Riconosciuto for this story Tyree would say only that, “He’s very good at what he does. There are very, very few who can touch him, maybe 200 in the whole world. Riconosciuto’s in a class all by himself.” Those documents, as later described to me by RCMP Investigator Sean McDade, proved to be “Awesome and right on the money.”
    The essence of those documents was that, not only had the Republicans under Meese exploited the software, but that the Democrats had also seen its potential and moved years earlier. Nowhere was this connection more clearly exposed than in understanding the relationship between three classmates from the U.S. Naval Academy: Jimmy Carter, Stansfield Turner (Carter’s CIA director), and billionaire banker and Presidential kingmaker (Carter’s Annapolis roommate), Arkansas’ Jackson Stephens. The Tyree diagrams laid out in detail how Promis, after improvement with AI, had allegedly been mated with the software of Jackson Stephens’ firm Systematics. In the late seventies and early eighties, Systematics handled some 60-70% of all electronic banking transactions in the U.S.
    The goal, according to the diagrams which laid out (subsequently verified) relationships between Stephens, Worthen Bank, the Lippo Group and the drug/intelligence bank BCCI was to penetrate every banking system in the world. This “cabal” could then use Promis both to predict and to influence the movement of financial markets worldwide. Stephens, truly bipartisan in his approach to profits, has been a lifelong supporter of George Bush and he was, at the same time, the source of the $3 million loan that rescued a faltering Clinton Campaign in early 1992. There is a great photograph of Stephens with a younger George “W” Bush in the excellent BCCI history, False Profits.”
    Further, there was some kind of vector between Inslaw/PROMIS and the Bank of Nugan Hand if I recall correctly, this is an old and long running affair.
    So Clifford, if you don’t know anything about this stuff, but are interested in BCCI and matters banking I am certain that the whole Inslaw/CIA/PROMIS mystery(s) are worth further investigation.
    Its my paranoid understanding that Verint now handles like 96% of global interbank clearance transactions through servers located in Israel, although I could be wrong. I have other material about Israeli compromise of secure electronic commerce and governance that might see them as the ultimate software insider, the back-door, false-flag waving brains behind a lot of black financial and intelligence prestidigitation. Israel maybe like the littlest electronic espionage Matroska doll inside the whole web, but I don’t have time now to even google it, let alone find my stuff, perhaps later. . . Apparently they hacked all your IEF? – you know the Friend or Foe software codes – tapped into Lawrence Livermore, might as well be naked.
    curious, help me out here. This is a decades long story, highly technical, highly compartmentalized, but somebody writes the ultimate code, and somehow I don’t think its the brainiacs with the unencrypted drone feeds . . .Money, gadgets, espionage, dope, crime, GWOT, Israel, , got it all.
    Also, the huge wads of now accumulated idle capital will soon be turned loose on a scavenger hunt of high tech M&A’s in some very specialized fields, I’m not talking about the huge Time/Warner type things, or the content guys trying to control the pipe, but rather some very esoteric cutting edge internet communications intellectual property and the like. . . some such critical technology was recently bought by a Swiss firm from the rubble of former Canadian tech giant Nortel over nationalistic howls from the Canadian proprietor of RIM, maker of the Crackberry, freshly shut out of the NHL, but I really must go.

  37. PS says:

    And now we have the mother of all Powerpoint slides here:
    This set of slides recognizes that a society is made up of a complex web of social relationships, but can you imagine anyone seeing this as a useful tool for actions in-country?

  38. jesuscat says:

    To what extent do environmental factors and demographics play a role in the success or lack thereof in COIN campaigns? Did those other campaigns have to deal with decaying environment or population pressures?
    I imagine many folks are already aware of what I will write here, but for reasons of clarity I’ll go ahead.
    No matter how one feels about global warming and other environmental issues, it is hard to deny the degree of environmental degredation experienced by Afghanistan. Thousands of acres of arable farmland are gone, eroded due to poor management. Afghanistan’s forests are a fraction of what they were in 30 years ago, and the glaciers, essential water sources for Afghanistan are shrinking.
    Add to this the demographic explosion Afghanistan, like much of the developing world, experienced in the last 40 years. In centuries past the South Asian lowlands served as an escape valve for population pressures as young men went to what’s now India and Pakistan. While Afghans are still emigrating in large numbers, the free flow of population is curtailed. And there simply are more Afghans than previously.
    So as I see it, you have a growing population living on fewer resources. This in itself is dangerous. The amount of development and aid needed to counter act this demographic and environmental catastrophe would be a major undertaking in the best of times.
    Oh well, just my two cents, it seems a lot of newspeople talk about radical Islam, but nobody talks much about water wars.
    Longtime reader, firsttime commentor. Col., I might not agree with you all the time, but I always appreciate your postings.

  39. TTG says:

    As a consolation the Taliban are now saddled with a kind of COIN trying to impose their version of Islam on all the tribes and peoples of Afghanistan. The people of the Panjshir, many across the country and especially in the cities and even ISIS-K want no part of the Taliban shit. They’re finding it’s a lot harder to build something than tear something down.

    • Eric Newhill says:

      Nice, deliciously ironic, observation.

      With regards to the US military, I always thought that the USMC’s ‘Small Wars Manual’ should have been leveraged as the template. It “got it right”. I guess when you’re creating your own new reality at the end of history you can’t refer to old material, even proven effective as it was. Hence COIN.

    • LeaNder says:

      Great comment, TTG.

      On the other hand, one thing that led me to SST, of all places, was a desire to understand the world unfolding around me after 9/11. Not least Islamist fundamentalism. Apart from that the US, maybe?

      Difference between the Taliban, Isis-K.
      many across the country and especially in the cities and even ISIS-K want no part of the Taliban shit.

      What about Al-Qaeda, which after all started matters? Religion, Power? What else is in play here?

      Yup, nitwit question. 😉

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