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The Politically Incorrect Truth About What Really Happened In Afghanistan

The Politically Incorrect Truth About What Really Happened In Afghanistan

5 SEPTEMBER 2021

The Politically Incorrect Truth About What Really Happened In Afghanistan

Many Americans might regard their government’s grand strategic objectives in this respect as lacking any morals, ethics, or principles considering that they now largely align with China’s, Pakistan’s, Russia’s, and even the Taliban’s despite the public having been made to think over the years that all four of them are their enemies.

Afghan Ambiguity

Average Americans are struggling to make sense of what just happened in Afghanistan last month since it all unfolded so suddenly. Most realized that the war was lost long ago and had turned into a so-called “endless” one, but few expected it to end the way that it ultimately did. Almost nothing that the Biden Administration did made sense to them, and few have any idea what’s in store for the future there. The purpose of this piece is to explain everything in “politically incorrect” terms in order to help everyone better understand it all.

A Hint Of What’s To Come

Let’s start with the jaw-dropping outcome first and then explain how it came to be. The US is now partially partnered with the same Taliban that it still officially designates as terrorists in their joint struggle against the comparatively greater evil of ISIS-K. America’s post-war plans for the region will also see it relying on China’s Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in order to expand its economic influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia despite officially being in a New Cold War with Beijing.

The “unholy” US-Taliban anti-terrorist partnership isn’t perfect nor what either of those two initially wanted but was forged by shared interests during the last two weeks of the American withdrawal from Kabul. The Taliban protected Americans from those terrorists despite being officially designated by the American government as terrorists themselves because they hoped that Washington would continue providing some level of support for Afghanistan after the war ends, even if only indirectly through international organizations.

PAKAFUZ

That’s precisely what the US also plans to do, even if not right away, as evidenced by the “New Quad” that it established between itself, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan in late July that’s explicitly premised on promoting regional connectivity. This structure strategically comprises the three countries that agreed in February to build a railway (which can tentatively be called PAKAFUZ after the first letters of each participating country’s name) that’ll eventually connect Central Asia to the Arabian Sea via Afghanistan.

This infrastructure project aligns with the former Trump Administration’s “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” that was unveiled in February 2020 just weeks before the US-Taliban peace deal later that month. It basically calls for using economic means to expand American influence in this broader region with an aim towards lessening those countries’ potentially disproportionate strategic dependence on the US’ Chinese and Russian rivals.

America’s Chinese-Friendly Taliban Guardians

The irony though is that it’ll inevitably result in the US relying on BRI’s CPEC in Pakistan in spite of the ongoing Chinese-American New Cold War, which is too “politically incorrect” of an observation for any American official to say out loud despite it being the strategic truth. Even more shocking for the US public is the fact that the Taliban was always expected from the get-go to guard this project through the US’ plans to incorporate it into the planned transitional government that was supposed to have been assembled before the withdrawal ended.

That plan went awry after former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani‘s ego got the best of him and he refused to resign as the Taliban’s primary political precondition for their participation. Furthermore, the Biden Administration refused to implement any military tripwires during the final months of its withdrawal such as making it clear that it would kinetically respond to any Taliban attacks against Afghan cities while US forces were still in the country. These factors emboldened the group to go on their fateful nationwide offensive.

Biden’s Dilemma

In Biden’s defense, attacking the Taliban under any pretext would have been a violation of the Trump Administration’s deal with the group and would have provoked them to attack the withdrawing American forces, thereby sabotaging the process and probably leading to the perpetuation of the war. While some have since claimed that he should have withdrawn the US’ military equipment that it gave to its Afghan National Army (ANA) allies, that would have caused a panic and precipitated their collapse due a lack of confidence.

Either way, the Biden Administration was in a dilemma, one which was largely attributable to the US’ human intelligence failures there over the past two decades as well as the self-sustaining ecosystem of lies built by members of its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”). The Pentagon truly (though wrongly) believed that the larger and better-equipped ANA would fight the Taliban and that the Afghan government wouldn’t collapse until the end of the year at the earliest.

The Truth About The Taliban

What it failed to realize this entire time is that the Taliban had successfully rebranded itself as a national liberation movement in the eyes of Afghanistan’s 75% rural majority despite still being designated as terrorists by Russia and others. This resulted in it generating enormous sympathy among many of those very same members of the ANA that were supposed to fight them as well as many of the country’s minorities, the latter of which reconciled themselves with living under their rule after they let minorities join their leadership ranks.

The “politically incorrect” conclusion is that the Taliban already won incomparably more hearts and minds than the US and its proxy government, which also means that the Pentagon unwittingly ended up training many Taliban sympathizers in the ANA who then largely surrendered en masse once the group approached the gates of their cities. That’s why the Taliban was able to seize so much US military equipment. Had the US known what was really happening on the ground this whole time, it would have likely withdrawn it all ahead of time.

The Partial US-Taliban Partnership

Instead, American decision makers (both military and political alike) were oblivious to how genuinely popular the Taliban’s national liberation cause had become among the Afghan people, especially those in the ANA and in the minority-majority northern parts of the country. Even though the Taliban are still officially designated as terrorists by the US, their enemy came to rely on them out of necessity to protect many of those Americans who were caught off guard by their offensive and hadn’t evacuated earlier.

The Taliban ensured that most of them reached the airport safely and thus proved to the American government that its designation of them as terrorists is outdated, especially in light of their shared struggle against ISIS-K. All of these dynamics should have been obvious to any objective observer but the vast majority of those across the world were so surprised at the speed by which everything that they thought about the conflict was flipped upside-down that they weren’t able to accurately assess what was happening.

Too Little, Too Late

Furthermore, the Biden Administration – just like its three predecessors – was never fully truthful with the American people and failed to explain all of this to them ahead of time like it should have done. To the President’s credit, he eventually did broach some of these themes in his recent speeches, but it too little too late to reshape perceptions and reassure everyone that everything was under as much control as it possibly could be given the very difficult circumstances.

He also came off as defensive and therefore potentially untruthful since his explanations occurred only after his administration came under unprecedented pressure. Even if he was upfront about everything right at the start of the Taliban’s lightning-fast nationwide offensive when it became increasingly clear that the “deep state” totally miscalculated the on-the-ground dynamics there, it would have still been too abrupt of an explanation for the American people to accept since they’d been lied to for so long about the war.

The Raw Truth

It’s understandable that folks would find it difficult to understand how the same Taliban that’s still officially designated by their government as terrorists was supposed to become part of an inclusive government prior to the withdrawal’s completion, help the US fight against the comparatively greater evil of ISIS-K, and then defend the PAKAFUZ project for expanding their country’s influence into Central Asia which is ironically partially dependent on their Chinese rival’s BRI investments in CPEC that America is supposed to be opposed to.

This is all too much for the average American to comprehend which is why the “politically incorrect” explanation is being withheld from them even though part of it has gradually been introduced to the public by Biden out of political necessity ever since last month’s fast-moving events. The US is partnering with a group that it still officially regards as terrorists in order to fight against other terrorists and also hopes that the first group guards a planned regional connectivity project through Afghanistan that’s partially reliant on China’s BRI.

Debunking Lies About The Taliban & China

These strategic truths debunk several major American lies. The first is that the Taliban aren’t truly terrorists in the traditional sense that the US public regards this word as meaning otherwise their government wouldn’t ally with it against anyone else, let alone depend on it to protect evacuating Americans and then a regional infrastructure project through post-withdrawal Afghanistan. The second is that BRI isn’t as bad as they’ve been made to believe since its CPEC investments will lay the basis for the US’ future Central Asian strategy.

In fact, PAKAFUZ can be considered as a synthesis of American, Chinese, Pakistani, and even Russian strategic connectivity visions since it serves all of their interests. The US and Pakistan want to expand their economic influence north, China wants to facilitate Islamabad’s plans in this respect since PAKAFUZ is de facto the northern expansion of CPEC, and Russia regards this corridor as its route to the Indian Ocean that it’s struggled for centuries to reach.

Debunking Lies About Russia & Pakistan

Two more lies are therefore debunked through this supplementary observation. The first pertains to Pakistan, which many Americans are resentful of since they consider its reported support of the Taliban as having been the primary factor that ensured their country’s military defeat in Afghanistan. Be that as it may, their government is now economically allying with Pakistan through the “New Quad” and PAKAFUZ in order to expand its influence in Central Asia via post-withdrawal Taliban-led Afghanistan.

The second lie relates to Russia, and it’s that the US will always supposedly seek to “contain” it, yet PAKAFUZ will actually enable Moscow to finally succeed for the first time ever in its centuries-long quest to reach the Indian Ocean. Many American decision makers regarded their 1980s support of the Taliban’s mujahideen forefathers as being partially premised on preventing the USSR from using Afghanistan as a spring board to eventually invade Pakistan for that purpose, yet now their government is facilitating this connectivity goal.

Concluding Thoughts

All of this just goes to show how complicated the realities of International Relations really are. Many Americans might regard their government’s grand strategic objectives in this respect as lacking any morals, ethics, or principles considering that they now largely align with China’s, Pakistan’s, Russia’s, and even the Taliban’s despite the public having been made to think over the years that all four of them are their enemies. It’s little wonder then that these “politically incorrect” truths are still being withheld from them by the “deep state”.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, US, Russia, China, Pakistan, PAKAFUZ.


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Russia’s Balancing Act Is The Key To Averting Another Civil War In Afghanistan

Russia’s Balancing Act Is The Key To Averting Another Civil War In Afghanistan

22 AUGUST 2021

Russia

It’s incumbent on Russia to use all realistic means at its disposal to urgently convince the “Panjshir Resistance” to negotiate with the Taliban, ensure that the Taliban offers its opponents a fair deal with respect to the inclusive government that it’s promised to create, and prevent any Tajik civilians from crossing over the border to fight for their co-ethnics (and in the process potentially provoke Taliban-Tajik clashes that could automatically involve Russia through the CSTO).

Taliban-Russia Ties

The Taliban’s lightning-fast conquest of Afghanistan has resulted in the group becoming its de facto authorities in less than half a month’s time, though it still hasn’t been formally recognized as such because it continues to be designated as a terrorist organization by the international community. Nevertheless, Russia enjoys excellent political ties with the Taliban that were forged over the past few years of the Moscow-led Afghan peace process in spite of still banning the group for the aforementioned reason.

Recalibrating Russia’s Balancing Act In Afghanistan

The Eurasian Great Power’s pragmatic stance towards them is the result of its diplomatic balancing act which saw the Kremlin pioneer a new era of relations with former rivals in recent years in an attempt to position itself as the supreme balancing force in Eurasia, which its leadership regards as their country’s geostrategic destiny this century. In particular, Russia has invested tremendous time and effort in practicing this policy towards majority-Muslim states as part of what can be described as its “Ummah Pivot”.

The rapid collapse of the US-backed Kabul government saw Russia replacing that partner with the Taliban as its de facto interlocutor for managing national affairs while the anti-government role that this group played with respect to Moscow’s balancing act there has been replaced by the so-called “Panjshir Resistance” which popped up in its eponymous valley. It considers itself to be the successor of the erstwhile “Northern Resistance” that used to enjoy Russian support during the 1990s. Unlike then, however, the Kremlin has no intentions of militarily aiding this opposition force but instead wants it to compromise with the Taliban.

Strategic Symbiosis

This observation is evidenced by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announcing that he supports a political dialogue between those opposing forces, which was followed up by Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov declaring that “there is no alternative to the Taliban” and elaborating on the many reasons why the “Panjshir Resistance” is doomed. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Zhirnov revealed that the Taliban asked for his assistance in reaching a political solution with that group. This development speaks to the symbiotic strategic relationship between Russia and the Taliban.

Russia expects the Taliban to function as the region’s anti-terrorist vanguard against ISIS-K while the Taliban expects Russia to facilitate a political compromise with the “Panjshir Resistance”. These outcomes would be mutually beneficial if they succeed since they’d ensure regional stability by averting another Afghan Civil War. Moscow is the only force capable of potentially convincing the “Panjshir Resistance” to reach a deal with the Taliban since the former’s members are thought to be mostly Tajiks – Afghanistan’s second-largest ethnic plurality – and therefore within Russia’s indirect “sphere of influence” by virtue of its alliance with Dushanbe.

Is The “Panjshir Resistance” The US’ “Plan C”?

Although Ahmad Massoud – the head of the “Panjshir Resistance” whose father of the same name was the legendary leader of the “Northern Resistance”known as the “Lion of Panjshir” – is close to the liberal-globalist imperialist Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) of Libyan War infamy and provocatively published an op-ed in the Washington Post requesting as much US military assistance as possible, it’s unlikely that anything significant will be forthcoming. Even if some was American support was received, without Russian support via Tajikistan, his movement stands no chance of succeeding but would only function as a US proxy for prolonging the war.

It’s unimportant whether some observers sympathize with Massoud’s comparatively more secular vision of Afghanistan since it’s objectively the case that his ties to BHL and direct appeal to the preferred media outlet of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) confirm the counterproductive role that he’d play with respect to regional dynamics if his movement is allowed to continue. It might very well be that some neoconservative “deep state” forces regard him as their “Plan C” for Afghanistan after “Plan A” of an indefinite occupation failed just like their “Plan B” of ISIS-K did shortly after.

Strategic Dynamics

Russia has no interest in militarily supporting the “Panjshir Resistance” since it’s aware of the destabilizing role that it’s expected to play in sabotaging February’s agreement to build the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway that Moscow intends to utilize for expanding its economic influence to the Indian Ocean like it’s wanted to do for centuries. It’s true that the US also intends to use PAKAFUZ to expand its own economic influence northward into the Central Asian Republics, but it can indefinitely postpone that ultimate fallback plan if the “Panjshir Resistance” successfully functions as its “deep state” proxy for sabotaging Russia’s plans.

The US doesn’t even have to do all that much anyhow for the “Panjshir Resistance” to further destabilize the situation in Afghanistan. Its continued militant resistance to the Taliban (no matter how futile it may ultimately be) might be enough to provoke the country’s de facto leaders into reciprocally (if not disproportionately) responding which could then result in potentially uncontrollable grassroots furor in Tajikistan itself. The US might hope that this catalyzes a self-sustaining cycle of destabilization whereby that neighboring country’s citizens volunteer to fight for their co-ethnics in Afghanistan and thus provoke border clashes with the Taliban.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Russia would have no choice but to protect its CSTO mutual defense ally’s borders in order to “save face” before the world and not be seen as abandoning the country that it previously swore to protect in such a scenario regardless of whoever really provoked it. That could then immediately ruin Moscow’s pragmatic political ties with the Taliban, thus sabotaging the Eurasian Great Power’s diplomatic balancing act and consequently creating a dangerous situation whereby the group no longer has any significant external incentive to behave responsibly like the international community expects.

If the Taliban returns to its old ways by inertia due to another round of civil war, it’ll remain isolated and the US will therefore succeed in indefinitely postponing seemingly inevitable Eurasian multipolar integration processes such as PAKAFUZ as well as the expansion of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) into Afghanistan. Put another way, all that the US has to do is indirectly shape the preexisting conflict dynamics in Afghanistan in such a way as to prevent the “Panjshir Resistance’s” collapse long enough to inspire Tajik citizens to volunteer to fight for their co-ethnics there in order to possibly set into motion this self-sustaining Hybrid War scheme as its “Plan C”.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s for this reason why it’s incumbent on Russia to use all realistic means at its disposal to urgently convince the “Panjshir Resistance” to negotiate with the Taliban, ensure that the Taliban offers its opponents a fair deal with respect to the inclusive government that it’s promised to create, and prevent any Tajik civilians from crossing over the border to fight for their co-ethnics (and in the process potentially provoke Taliban-Tajik clashes that could automatically involve Russia through the CSTO). The outcome of Russia’s efforts will shape the future of the broader region for years to come, which is why all responsible stakeholders sincerely hope that it succeeds.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Afghanistan, Russia, Taliban, Panjshir Resistance, US, ISIS-K, Hybrid War, PAKAFUZ, Balancing.


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It’s Time To Create An Afghan-Central Asian Connectivity Platform

It’s Time To Create An Afghan-Central Asian Connectivity Platform

20 AUGUST 2021

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The most important outcome of last month’s virtual Afghan-Central Asian Foreign Ministers meeting was “the need to create a political framework that would strengthen cooperation between these countries in various fields”, which should be prioritized as soon as possible so as to advance their shared goal of facilitating transregional connectivity.

The Afghan Embassy in Turkmenistan’s monthly newsletter for July 2021 contained an important tidbit of information that escaped the attention of most regional observers. This was the outcome of last month’s virtual Afghan-Central Asian Foreign Ministers meeting, which was co-hosted by Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA). The newsletter described this event as “the first format at the level of Foreign Ministers to discuss the peace process, economic development, regional security, and the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.” According to the Afghan Embassy in Turkmenistan, “The Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan and Central Asia stressed the need to create a political framework that would strengthen cooperation between these countries in various fields.”

It’s this reasonable outcome that should be prioritized as soon as possible so as to advance those countries’ shared geo-economic goal of facilitating transregional connectivity. Mid-July’s conference in Tashkent on Central Asia-South Asia connectivity saw all participants – which included representatives from China, Russia, and the US – agreeing on the importance of this vision. Immediately thereafter, the US announced the formation of a “New Quad” between itself, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan focused specifically on integration. All regional stakeholders including those four countries are most directly interested in February’s agreement to built a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway, which is regarded as the most realistic means to this connectivity end.

PAKAFUZ isn’t the only relevant transregional corridor proposal even though it’s arguably the most promising. The China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor (CCAWEC) is another one, though this plan’s exact route is vaguely defined at the present moment, as is the eastern branch of the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) from the Indian-controlled Iranian port of Chabahar that aims to connect to those countries too. Some observers also expect that China’s recent modernization of eastern Tajikistan’s highway network is premised on the plan of eventually pioneering what can tentatively be called a “Persian Corridor” for connecting those two and Afghanistan with Beijing’s new 25-year strategic partners in Iran. Finally, there’s the Lapis Lazuli Corridor (LLC) between Afghanistan and Turkey via Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

Seeing as how these five potential corridors all transit through Afghanistan and Central Asia, it’s sensible for them to want “to create a political framework that would strengthen cooperation between these countries in various fields”, particularly with respect to their shared geo-economic goal of facilitating transregional connectivity. Whatever this structure ends up being called, it should only include those six countries as formal members while allowing other stakeholders like China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and the US to participate as observers. This would enable Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics (CAR) to avoid being overshadowed by those much larger countries and thus inadvertently risk becoming objects of International Relations instead of remaining independent subjects like they presently are.

Each of those much larger countries already have some level of institutionalized connectivity cooperation with Afghanistan and the CARs which justifies their participation as observers in the proposed platform. The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) brings together those six countries, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, while China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) does the same with those six and the People’s Republic. The US’ C5+1 framework is the basis for its relations with Central Asia, while its “New Quad” includes the PAKAFUZ countries. Finally, the Ashgabat Agreement consists of India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan while Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) includes Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

With these observations in mind, there shouldn’t be anything controversial about Afghanistan and the CARs coming together to create their own integration platform for facilitating transregional connectivity so long as they invite China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and the US to participate as observers. Each of those seven much larger countries should understand their six partners’ concerns about being overshadowed by their formal membership in this group. All of them should therefore support their implementation of last month’s proposal since the resultant structure could also become the platform through which each of them more effectively interface with those countries. Hopefully some tangible progress can be achieved in this respect very soon since such an outcome would advance everyone’s geo-economic interests.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, PAKAFUZ.


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Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

11 AUGUST 2021

Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

The Indo-Pacific is rapidly becoming the convergence point of many of the world’s geostrategic processes, but Russia has yet to formulate an official policy towards this vast space, which places it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Great Power peers.

The Indo-Pacific is among the top buzzwords in the foreign policy community nowadays because this vast region is rapidly becoming the convergence point of many of the world’s geostrategic processes. The New Cold War between the American and Chinese superpowers is unfolding in these two oceans and their hinterlands, which is prompting more Great Powers to pay greater attention to them. The majority of global trade traverses through these waters and the coastal countries have some of the fastest-growing economies anywhere on the planet. Nevertheless, some of them are also inherently unstable due to preexisting identity and territorial conflicts that are at times externally exploited, which thus makes the Indo-Pacific an emerging hotspot too.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all relevant players in the international system should have a policy in place towards the Indo-Pacific. Russia has yet to formulate an official one, however, which places it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Great Power peers. All that it has are separate policies that haven’t been integrated into a singular one apart from perhaps there being some regional visions that still aren’t considered part of a cohesive Indo-Pacific whole. Bilateral engagements with China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India, and South Africa form the basis for Russia’s policies towards Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa respectively though there’s also sometimes multilateral engagements with ASEAN, BRICS, and RIC too.

Without connecting these disparate parts into a comprehensive policy, Russia’s approach towards the Indo-Pacific will always remain complete. It must realize that these separate policies complement one another, but this awareness can only be brought about through a change in perspective from its academic, expert, and foreign policy communities. Thus far, Russia’s official approach towards the Indo-Pacific is reactionary, with Foreign Minister Lavrov at times warning about the US’ intentions to contain China there. This, however, hasn’t led to any proactive engagement with the countries and organizations of this region with the intent of crafting an official Indo-Pacific policy. That lack of vision is resulting in Russia lagging behind its peers once again.

Any comprehensive policy towards the Indo-Pacific must include components of Russia’s existing policies towards Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The geographic extent of this space can more accurately be described as the Afro-Pacific considering the rising importance of East and Southern African countries in this strategic context. Regardless of whatever Russian decision makers decide to call it, their policy will also have to incorporate multilateral engagement with relevant economic and political structures such as ASEAN, the East African Community (EAC), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), among many others.

Furthermore, it must have diplomatic, economic, and military dimensions too. On the diplomatic front, Russia should try to position itself as the supreme balancing force in Afro-Eurasia through a blend of “classical diplomacy”, “economic diplomacy”, and “military diplomacy”, though this vision is only credible if Moscow has the appropriate tools to leverage to this end. Next, Russia will ideally aim to have its Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) balance between China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the joint Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) in order to avoid disproportionate dependence on either economic network. And militarily, it mustn’t inadvertently provoke any security dilemmas, especially with China and India.

These are very ambitious and admittedly challenging goals, which is why the first step must be carried out within Russia’s own expert community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID per its Russian abbreviation) should begin reaching out to regional (Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, etc.) and subject (economic, diplomatic, military) experts with a view towards eventually bringing them together into a larger working group focused on formulating a comprehensive policy towards the Indo-Pacific. As is presumably the case with practically every Great Power’s diplomatic bureaucracy, it’s unlikely that Russia’s specialized experts ever engaged much with many of their differently specialized peers, yet this is arguably the need of the hour.

Economic experts must meaningfully interact with those who generally specialize in East African political affairs as well as their peers who focus on the military situation in South Asia for example. Basically, the existing nodes within Russia’s MID whose areas or subjects of responsibility fall within the vast geographic domain of the Indo-Pacific must form a new network aimed at achieving effective results. Russia has to organize their interactions in such a way that the eventual outcome is the most accurate assessment possible of the overall strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific space. Only with this insight can Russia confidently craft a comprehensive policy in this respect, but it’ll still likely take some time before it gets to that point.

Along the way, it might be helpful if Russia organized a high-profile conference in order to accelerate progress in this direction and greatly assist with brainstorming, or it could organize the same upon the final formulation of its Indo-Pacific policy in order to serve as the means through which it formally announces it to the world as an outcome of that event. Either way, this proposal could be advanced through the leading role of Russia’s MID, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN per its Russian abbreviation), the Moscow State Institute of International Relations(MGIMO, which is run by MID), the Diplomatic Academy, the Higher School of Economics, and the prestigious Valdai Club and Russia International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tanks.

Better yet, that proposed event within Russia’s expert community could then become the first in a yearly tradition that could subsequently be expanded to include the participation of prominent experts from the many countries in the Indo-Pacific that Moscow would more actively engage with as part of its official policy towards that geostrategic space. This could prospectively result in a globally prominent platform with time that serves the important function of bringing together this megaregion’s many stakeholders to discuss the most pressing issues of pertinence during that year. Such a vision would also reinforce the growing perception of Russia as a neutral, balancing force within the Indo-Pacific focused solely on peace, stability, and development.

Russia is redirecting its grand strategic focus towards the Indian Ocean as evidenced by its recent endorsement of Central Asia-South Asia connectivity through the planned Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway and President Putin’s interest in cooperating with India to ensure maritime security presumably also within his ally’s eponymous ocean, so it’s incumbent on the Kremlin to prioritize crafting a comprehensive Indo-Pacific policy as soon as possible. Russia’s rapid return to South Asia this year gives it tangibly emerging stakes in this megaregion and should hopefully inspire MID to do what’s needed in order to bring this about per the practical proposals shared in this analysis.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Indo-Pacific, Balancing, New Cold War, China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Putin, Lavrov, PAKAFUZ.


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The Extended Troika Is Incomplete Without India & Iran But It’ll Still Manage

The Extended Troika Is Incomplete Without India & Iran But It’ll Still Manage

5 AUGUST 2021

India’s and Iran’s refusal to participate in the Extended Troika on Afghanistan alongside Russia, Pakistan, China, and the US due to New Delhi’s reluctance to publicly talk to the Taliban and Tehran’s disagreements with Washington means that this peacemaking structure will always remain incomplete even though it’ll still likely manage to accomplish most of its goals without them.

The Extended Troika comprised of RussiaPakistanChina, and the US is arguably the world’s most important peacemaking structure at the moment considering the pivotal role that it’s playing in shaping the future of Eurasia upon the US’ military withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August. These four countries are coordinating their efforts to facilitate a political solution to the ongoing Afghan Civil War even if their interactions are imperfect and a tangible outcome has yet to be achieved. All four of them are finally on the same page with respect to their shared geo-economic vision for post-war Afghanistan related to the landlocked country functioning as the irreplaceable transit state for advancing Central Asia-South Asia connectivity.

Russia hoped that India and Iran would also join this structure due to the stakes that they have in Afghanistan’s future, but this has yet to happen due to New Delhi’s reluctance to publicly talk to the Taliban (which is a precondition for participation) and Tehran’s disagreements with Washington. This means that the Extended Troika will always remain incomplete. India will consequently have difficulty ensuring and expanding its entrenched economic interests in Afghanistan just like Iran will struggle to do the same as well as defend its security interests there too. By voluntarily declining to take a seat at the table where all relevant stakeholders are determining this interconnected region’s future, India and Iran are depriving themselves of opportunities.

In their leaderships’ minds, they’re apparently prioritizing optics over substance after calculating – whether rightly or wrongly – that it’s better to maintain their images than risk the potential soft power consequences connected with backtracking on their present policies of pertinence. To explain, India wants to show the world that it’s consistently opposed to the Taliban, which its Hindu nationalist government insists its an irredeemable terrorist group. Iran, meanwhile, doesn’t want to discuss anything with the US even in a multilateral framework until bilateral ties first improve since it’s concerned that doing otherwise might project an image of weakness when it comes to the nuclear talks and other seemingly more pressing issues for it such as Gulf security.

The emerging situation is such that India’s and Iran’s voluntary decisions to remain outside the Extended Troika place them in a position to act as spoilers to the Afghan peace process. Nevertheless, the likelihood of them successfully perpetuating the ongoing civil war there for any significant length of time is low. That’s because the Taliban controls a sizeable length of the country’s borders, Iran’s new principalist (“conservative”) government might also understandably feel uncomfortable facilitating the Indian Air Force’s overflights through its airspace to continually resupply US-backed Kabul, and New Delhi might rightly wager that the expected costs of such a campaign far outweigh the expected benefits. Even so, this is a scenario that shouldn’t be totally dismissed.

Part of the reason why Russia presumably wanted both of them to participate in the Extended Troika was to reduce the chances of this happening. If India and Iran felt empowered by this peacemaking structure and were confident that it could most effectively ensure their respective interests, then they’d be less likely to speculatively contemplate various ways to unilaterally (or perhaps even jointly with one another) promote their goals at others’ possible expense. Regrettably, neither of their leaderships want to risk the potential soft power consequences connected with backtracking on their present policies of pertinence. So long as they don’t meddle in Afghanistan, though, then none of the Extended Troika’s members have much to worry about.

In the event that one or both of them end up doing something disruptive, then they might worsen their ties with all four of that peacemaking structure’s members. The US might not be too concerned for the short term, especially if India’s responsible for stirring up trouble, since such a development would temporarily offset its Russian and Chinese rivals’ connectivity plans though as at the expense of America’s own. Be that as it may, the US can strategically afford to delay the Central Asia-South Asia integration process for the time being since the interim period of uncertainty would be more counterproductive to those two’s interests than its own, but this destabilizing scenario would still stand no choice of materializing if India and Iran joined the Extended Troika.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Pakistan, China, US, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Taliban, Balancing, PAKAFUZ.


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Russia Is Right To Regard The Taliban As Reasonable

Russia Is Right To Regard The Taliban As Reasonable

24 JULY 2021

Russia Is Right To Regard The Taliban As Reasonable

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent remark that his country regards the Taliban as “reasonable people” prompted a discussion about why exactly Moscow holds this position towards a group that it still officially designates as terrorists.

The Taliban’s cautious welcoming into the international community is proceeding apace after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently remarked that his country regards the group as “reasonable people” despite still officially designating them as terrorists. This was the impression that he was left with after he and his diplomats had extensive interactions with the Taliban over the years during the course of their several visits to Moscow, the most recent of which was in early July, as part of the Afghan peace process. They promised not to threaten the Central Asian Republics, reiterated their commitment from last year’s peace deal with the US to not host any foreign militants, and expressed hope of reaching a peaceful political settlement to their country’s ongoing civil war.

Regardless of whatever they reportedly do within their own country, some actions of which arguably constituted terrorism in the past and thus explain their current designation by the Russian authorities, there’s no other way to describe their policy pronouncements while in Moscow as anything other than reasonable. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier clarified that there’s no contradiction between her country talking to the Taliban while still designating it as terrorists because such pragmatic dialogue in the name of peace is encouraged by a relevant UNSC Resolution from last year. Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov also suggested last week that the Taliban could actually advance his country’s regional anti-terrorist goals by fighting against ISIS-K and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

These facts mean that Russia and the Taliban are equally reasonable actors, both when it comes to their own relevant policies as well as their interaction with one another. Russia will not interfere in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs and acknowledges that the Taliban is a mighty force to be reckoned with there. It’s also internationally recognized as a political actor through the earlier mentioned UNSC Resolution that endorses pragmatic political dialogue with the group in the name of peace. As for the Taliban, it’s reasonable for them not to threaten the region since they would have nothing to gain by doing so as they’re a strictly domestically focused movement. They wouldn’t want to squander all their hard-earned international goodwill in recent years whether by doing that, stubbornly insisting on a military solution to their civil war, or hosting foreign militants.

In terms of the bigger picture, Russia’s and the Taliban’s strategic goals largely intersect, at least on the official level. Both reasonable actors are in support of a peaceful solution to the ongoing Afghan Civil War. They’re also fiercely opposed to ISIS-K and other terrorist groups. Another one of their shared goals is regional stability since both expect to profit from February’s agreement to built a Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway for connecting Central & South Asia. This game-changing project incentivizes all regional stakeholders to work together in the name of peace so as to mutually benefit from the trend of transregional integration in this geostrategic space. Unilaterally undermining it through irresponsible and unreasonable actions would harm everyone’s interests. It’s therefore understandable that Russia and the Taliban are close dialogue partners.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Afghanistan, Taliban, PAKAFUZ.


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Iran Is Wisely Marketing Itself As A Conduit For Russian-Pakistani Trade

Iran Is Wisely Marketing Itself As A Conduit For Russian-Pakistani Trade

23 JULY 2021

The Iranian Consul General to Pakistan’s proposal on 16 July that his country could serve as a conduit for Russian-Pakistani trade was extremely strategic since it shows a keen awareness of the Islamic Republic’s role in Eurasia’s rapidly evolving geo-economic environment.

Eurasia’s geo-economic environment is rapidly evolving in light of several interconnected developments over the past year. February’s agreement to construct a trilateral railway between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) challenged the strategic viability of the North-South Transport Corridor’s eastern branch (E-NSTC) from the Indian-controlled Iranian port of Chabahar to Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics (CARs). Kabul hammered another nail in that project’s coffin last month during the virtual trilateral Foreign Ministers meeting alongside the top diplomats from Beijing and Islamabad when it committed to rely on the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Although Russia still officially remains interested in the NSTC, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov enthusiastically endorsed Central Asian-South Asian connectivity during a topical conference in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent in mid-July, which can be interpreted as Moscow’s approval of PAKAFUZ and willingness to use this project to reach South Asia.

As it presently stands, Iran can’t bank on the NSTC as much as it initially expected. This initiative will still likely facilitate some Russian-Indian trade as intended, but nowhere near what the most optimistic observers had hoped for. The Islamic Republic’s strategic consolation is that Azerbaijan’s proposed six-nation integration platform will probably become its new priority and thus connect Iran more closely with Russia and the other four members of this platform. Even so, Tehran would still prefer to become a transregional economic player in Eurasia, the vision of which it aims to advance through March’s 25-year strategic partnership deal with China. I wrote at the time that this game-changing development could be leveraged to facilitate Russian-Pakistani trade through the western expansion of CPEC into the Islamic Republic (W-CPEC+) where it would then mostly proceed parallel with the NSTC’s original route. Some critics were skeptical of this ambitious vision, but my views have just been vindicated by the Iranian Consul General to Pakistan.

The Express Tribune reported that Mr. Mohammad Reza Nazeri said on 16 July while speaking at the first session of the Pakistan-Iran Business Facilitation meeting that Iran is a beneficiary of CPEC and can facilitate Pakistan’s trade with Central Asia and Russia. This statement very strongly suggests that he has a keen awareness of the Islamic Republic’s role in Eurasia’s rapidly evolving geo-economic environment. With E-NSTC having been made largely redundant by PAKAFUZ, which in turn also reduced the strategic viability of its core function of facilitating Russian-Indian trade, it makes sense for Iran to position itself as a conduit for Russian-Pakistani trade in order to redeem this project’s transregional importance for connecting Eastern Europe with South Asia. It can also serve as a temporary workaround to trans-Afghan trade between the two for as long as the situation in that landlocked country remains violently unstable. Put another way, Iran finally realizes how important Russian-Pakistani connectivity is nowadays and thus wants to play an important role in facilitating it.

Guided by this flexible approach to Eurasia’s rapidly evolving geo-economic environment, Iran can realistically retain its transregional geo-economic importance despite the NSTC’s initial Russian-Indian connectivity function having been reduced due to recent developments related to PAKAFUZ and New Delhi’s general realignment towards the West (including through its abidance to the US’ unilateral anti-Iranian sanctions regime). The expected influx of Chinese capital and the connectivity projects that it could be responsible for as a result of their 25-year strategic partnership deal could greatly enhance Iran’s transregional connectivity attractiveness, especially with respect to facilitating Russian-Pakistani trade. The expansion of W-CPEC+ to Russia via Iran and Azerbaijan would also improve the viability of the Golden Ring concept for assembling a new multipolar network in the Eurasian Heartland, which would serve the strategic interests of all the involved countries.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Pakistan, Iran, PAKAFUZ, W-CPEC+, NSTC, Geo-Economics.


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Debunking Bloomberg: Biden’s Afghan Withdrawal Isn’t A Blow To China

20 APRIL 2021

Debunking Bloomberg: Biden

It was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that ‘Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China’. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain.

Bloomberg published an op-ed last week provocatively claiming that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. Opinion columnist Bobby Ghosh argues that the country might soon slip back into an all-out civil war that would not only disrupt China’s connectivity interests in the country, but also spill over to threaten the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In addition, he predicts that Afghanistan will become “a sanctuary for jihadists of every stripe — some of whom will undoubtedly direct their attention to that very short, mountainous and porous border with China.”

This line of thinking is typical of what many in the Western mainstream media are saying. They were against former US President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year and subsequent promise to complete his country’s military withdrawal by the beginning of next month. His successor, US President Joe Biden, will instead initiate the full withdrawal by that date and complete it before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some establishment voices fear that this will create strategic opportunities for China and the US’ other so-called peer competitors like Russia to exploit for zero-sum ends against American interests.

In reality, however, it’s in everyone’s interests that the US completes its promised withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. America has spent trillions of dollars there without much of anything to show for it. It’s true that Afghanistan now has a governing system comparatively closer (key word) to Western democracy than before and that woman now enjoy greater rights, but the Taliban still controls large swathes of the country and ISIS’ entry to the battlefield in 2014 immensely complicated the anti-terrorist situation there. Indefinitely continuing the US’ occupation of Afghanistan would only make matters much worse without solving anything.

By boldly agreeing to withdraw from the country and clearly articulating the strategic reasons behind this decision in his national speech on Wednesday, President Biden concluded that it’s better to cut America’s losses and simply move on even though the victimized Afghan people won’t be able to move past this twenty-year dark chapter of their national history so easily. In any case, their future is arguably brighter than before, not dimmer. The completion of the US’ withdrawal will unlock promising socio-economic opportunities for Afghanistan provided that their leadership and local stakeholders have the political will to support them.

To explain, it’s precisely because of China that this is possible. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location in the center of the tri-regional Central-South-West Asian space affords it enormous potential for connecting these three massive markets through BRI. In particular, CPEC’s de facto expansion into Afghanistan via the recently agreed Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway will complement existing rail connectivity with China via the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership deal also creates the chance of further expanding this connectivity network to West Asia with time via W-CPEC+.

Domestically, the Afghan economy would require extensive reconstruction, but its reported $3 trillion worth of minerals – including some rare earth ones – could ideally be extracted in the most responsible way possible to ensure the equitable distribution of this wealth to every citizen. Coupled with grants and low-interest no-strings-attached loans from partner states like China and others, the Afghan people actually stand a very credible chance of succeeding in the future so long as their country can avert the all-out civil war that Ghosh fears might soon erupt.

That worst-case scenario is plausible, but nevertheless not inevitable. The Taliban, despite being designated as terrorists, have recently proven themselves to be shrewd diplomats on the international stage during multiple rounds of peace talks over the past few years. They seem to have understand the pragmatism of facilitating such connectivity and extractive projects for the purpose of improving their citizens’ living standards. Should they enter into the planned inclusive transitional government that’s been proposed, then they’ll probably not do anything to threaten those projects since they’ll too have a stake in their success.

Considering all of this, it was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain. What’s much more likely is that the existing low-intensity conflict continues but doesn’t reach catastrophic proportions. Instead, with the Taliban possibly becoming part of the Afghan government, the international community might remove their terrorist designation and accept them as equal stakeholders in Afghanistan’s future socio-economic success, a large part of which will be due to mutually beneficial cooperation with China.


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India Is Wrong To Blame The IRGC For Late January’s Attempted Terrorist Attack

10 MARCH 2021

India Is Wrong To Blame The IRGC For Late January

India knows that it’s being lied to by the US, “Israel”, and/or Saudi Arabia but is still going along with them anyhow because it naively expects to gain something in return.

Russia’s publicly financed international media outlet Sputnik published a piece on Monday titled “‘Asymmetric Warfare’: India’s Anti-Terror Unit Claims Iran’s Quds Force Behind Israeli Embassy Blast”. The article quotes an unnamed senior official at India’s National Investigative Agency who blames the IRGC for the non-lethal blast that occurred in the country’s capital in late January. Instinctively sensing a false flag attack, I immediately shared my concerns about this previously unconfirmed narrative that was bandied about at the time by Indian and “Israeli” officials in an analysis that I wrote for Pakistan’s Express Tribune asking “Did Iran Really Carry Out An Attempted Anti-Israeli Terrorist Attack In India?

Iran’s official response to these latest official Indian allegations was reported by Sputnik in its follow-up piece titled “‘Sinister Intentions of Enemies’: Iran Slams Report Claiming IRGC Behind Israel Embassy Blast”. That article quotes the statement released by the Iranian Embassy in India which suggests that “third parties who are angry and dissatisfied with the progress in the relations between the governments of Iran and India” were responsible for what happened. This conforms to my previous speculation that the incident was really a false flag attack that tried too hard to implicate Iran. The question naturally becomes one of who would have the interests and means to carry it out.

Pakistan can be safely excluded from the list of suspects because India would have already blamed it if there was even a shred of evidence that could be spun as implicating Islamabad’s involvement. The very fact that this didn’t happen speaks to the unquestionable absence of such evidence. Instead, the unnamed Indian official is quoted by Sputnik as saying that the investigation initially “hinted to the role of Islamic State” but that New Delhi eventually determined that the IRGC was really the true culprit. India could have stuck to the ISIS theory in order to avoid further complicating its increasingly complex relations with Iran but ultimately decided to pin the blame on the Islamic Republic, which advanced American, “Israeli”, and Saudi strategic interests.

Those three are therefore the most likely suspects, whether individually, in tandem, or altogether. It can only be speculated how one, some, or all three of them conspired to carry out that attempted attack, but there aren’t any other parties with both the interests and means. Even so, one must ask themselves why India would allow itself to be so obviously manipulated in such a crude manner by going along with the manufactured narrative that Iran was allegedly responsible. New Delhi knows that its statement risks worsening ties with Tehran, but it went ahead with it anyhow. This curiously coincides with new regional strategic developments that might explain the political calculations behind India’s decision.

Uzbekistan, the most populous state in Central Asia and the one with the most promising real-sector (i.e. non-energy) economic prospects, recently opted to go with Pakistan’s N-CPEC+ for connecting to the Indian Ocean instead of the eastern branch of the Indo-Iranian North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC). I wrote about this in my recent analysis for the Express Tribune which informed everyone “Why This Summer’s Central Asia-South Asia Connectivity Conference Will Be Crucial”. I explained that the agreement late last year to pioneer a railway between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan (tentatively described by me as the PAKAFUZ project after the first letters of each country’s name) makes the NSTC redundant, thereby basically dealing a deathblow to it.

With this observation in mind, India might have calculated that it had nothing more to lose by going with the flow and publicly blaming the IRGC for late January’s attempted terrorist attack in New Delhi. If anything, doing so might have been expected to improve India’s standing in the eyes of its new American, “Israeli”, and Saudi allies. Iran has no means to “punish” India for its provocative allegation since the South Asian state no longer purchases the Islamic Republic’s energy resources like before due to its fear of being targeted by the US’ so-called “secondary sanctions”, and the PAKAFUZ project pretty much put an end to the economic viability of the NSTC’s eastern branch.

These factors help explain why India publicly accused the IRGC of being responsible for that attempted terrorist attack. Even so, India is wrong to have blamed Iran because it knows better than to believe that the Islamic Republic was truly responsible. This experience shows just how much of its supposedly cherished strategic autonomy India has surrendered to its new American, “Israeli”, and Saudi allies in recent years that it now unashamedly blames Iran for supposedly committing out an act of terrorism on its soil despite there being no compelling evidence to prove this. India knows that it’s being lied to by the US, “Israel”, and/or Saudi Arabia but is still going along with them anyhow because it naively expects to gain something in return.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: India, Iran, Pakistan, US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Terrorism, NSTC, CPEC, CPEC+, N-CPEC+, PAKAFUZ.


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