Select Committee on Defence Fourteenth Report


Command, Coordination and Intelligence

183 Operation Allied Force was, of course, a NATO operation. Political direction was given by the North Atlantic Council, or delegated to the Secretary General. SACEUR was in overall military command, working through the headquarters SHAPE and AFSOUTH.[461] The North Atlantic Council set the political parameters and objectives for the campaign, provided guidance for the NATO military authorities and oversaw their activities, assisted by the Military Committee.[462] But with 19 sovereign governments and most of their armed forces involved, it would be idle to pretend that lines of command were simple and clear. As the MoD's own report observes, within the UK—

    ... there was a very high level of political interest and involvement in both the air and ground operations, and the emphasis was therefore on the MOD to develop national strategy and options, and explain them in detail to Ministers, although PJHQ was heavily involved throughout.[463]


184 The MoD in Whitehall and the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in Northwood together form what has been known since the establishment of the PJHQ in 1996 as the UK Defence Crisis Management Organisation. The MoD reports that—

The Chief of the Defence Staff's view was that "PJHQ and the Ministry of Defence in general worked very well indeed."[465] Vice-Admiral Garnett, who heads the PJHQ, said "so far as I am concerned the DCMO, as such, worked very well during the campaign."[466] CDS did remark that he thought—

    ... that because this was a very high profile campaign, perhaps the Ministry of Defence did rather more on this occasion than it would over something like East Timor.[467]

The NAO, however, observed that—

    The Department's initial analysis, undertaken in July 1999, of the overall management and organisation aspects of the initial deployment highlighted a continuing overlap regarding the division of responsibilities between the Department's headquarters and PJHQ. Their review stated that [MoD] headquarters staff tended to stray into operational level business—the domain of PJHQ—often at the expense of providing the more strategic guidance. As a consequence decisions made often lagged behind planning and deployment time-scales ... The Department recognised, however, that PJHQ and the [single Service] Supporting Commands had worked well together—and senior staff in theatre we spoke to confirmed the value of a co-ordinating headquarters in the United Kingdom to act as a focus for support and decisions.[468]

185 While we are ready to accept CDS's view that "in general" the MoD and the PJHQ worked well together, we are concerned that the Department's own initial analysis, as reported by the NAO, should have highlighted shortcomings which, in response to our questioning, witnesses did not see fit to tell us about. In response to a supplementary written question, the MoD expanded on its original answers—

    The division of responsibilities within the Defence Crisis Management Organisation is dependent on the particular operation in hand. In the Kosovo operation, there was a very high level of political interest and involvement in both the air and ground operations, and the emphasis was therefore on the MoD to develop national strategy and options, and explain them in detail to Ministers, although PJHQ was heavily involved throughout. The observation quoted in the NAO report was taken from a compilation of initial lessons from across PJHQ, and was not the result of in-depth analysis. Overall, MoD and PJHQ assess that the MoD/PJHQ relationship worked well, although it is acknowledged that there were some grey areas in interpreting the responsibility between MoD and PJHQ. These were recognised and resolved as practical experience of managing the crisis grew. The improved management of the relationship between MoD and PJHQ which has arisen out of the Kosovo conflict has been applied to subsequent crises including the East Timor and Sierra Leone operations, where PJHQ played a more prominent role.[469]

We recognise that both the MoD's official line and the Chief of the Defence Staff's comments seek to excuse the MoD because of the high political profile of the Kosovo crisis. But, as we emphasise throughout this report, the very political sensitivity of an operation such as that in Kosovo demands all the more that the respective jobs of the civilians and the military are clearly delineated. It is not the MoD's job to micro-manage the business of the Permanent Joint Headquarters. We trust the Department has taken heed of and acted upon its own initial analysis.


186 In its November 1999 report Lessons from Kosovo, the French defence ministry noted that—

The French noted that these resources included 'satellite and air resources', strategic intelligence and 'listening and observation' assets. These resources, the report asserts, are 'necessary conditions for national autonomy in terms of assessment of situations'. [470] Britain also recognises the overwhelming intelligence capabilities of the Americans. As Vice-Admiral Sir Alan West, Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) told the Committee, the Americans'—

    ... intelligence capability is amazing. They have spent huge amounts of money on collection, particularly on the technical aspects of collection.[471]

187 Unlike France, however, Britain has not sought to achieve 'national autonomy' in terms of intelligence collection. Instead, it has enjoyed privileged access to American intelligence. As CDI noted, "we are extremely lucky that we have got such a good ally".[472] This is a reciprocal relationship, however, in which both sides contribute information and analysis. Britain has long prided itself on the quality of its national assessment and analysis capabilities. Indeed, CDI argued that the UK and the US "will come out, very often on the same data that is collected, with a different assessment",[473] and added that the Americans "value very much indeed our analysis".[474]

188 That relationship covers several aspects of intelligence—signals intelligence, human intelligence, and geographic and imagery intelligence. We examined the close reciprocal relationship between the UK and the US in regard to the latter of these areas in our report earlier this year on the Defence Geographic and Imagery Intelligence Agency.[475] That inquiry focussed on the rationale for the merger of the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC) and the Miliary Survey from April 2000. As we said then, 'operations of the future, exploiting all aspects of information and intelligence in increasingly shorter timeframes, will require the outputs of JARIC, Military Survey and others to be more closely integrated.'[476] But the merger was in many respects also being driven by the US/UK intelligence partnership. While in resources terms the UK is clearly the junior partner, it benefits enormously from the deal and needs to continue to provide a meaningful contribution. As we noted in our report, therefore, the new unified agency needs to have the organisational and financial wherewithal to remedy its staff shortages and attract sufficient imagery analysts,[477] and to introduce vital new technological infrastructure.[478]

189 It must be remembered, however, that though there is a special relationship in intelligence terms, the USA will never share all of its intelligence even with the UK, and we will never know what we do not know. Indeed, US restrictions on the sharing of intelligence with coalition partners were identified by the DoD as a problem during Operation Allied Force. The DoD noted that security restrictions 'at times acted as a barrier in disseminating operational information to warfighters ¼ and coalition partners.'[479] As a sub-contractor to the USA in intelligence gathering and analysis, the UK cannot make unilateral decisions about the access it gives its other Allies to the information it has. If the European Security and Defence Identity is to develop, the UK and the its European Allies will have to give further thought to the balance between intelligence capabilities rooted in the American link and those which are nationally-owned or shared within Europe. Straddling both camps, NATO itself has no intelligence capability other than that provided by individual nations, as we describe below. Problems arising from differential access to intelligence within the Alliance undoubtedly hampered the effective execution of the air campaign.

190 Intelligence is about more than the collection, analysis and dissemination of tactical and operational information. A central function is strategic analysis and assessment to enable policy makers to understand their opponents. It should therefore be of concern if the Kosovo crisis demonstrated shortfalls in the UK's assessment capability. Strategic assessment for policy makers is ultimately provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and Cabinet Office Assessments Staff which utilises the outputs of the MoD's Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff (DIAS). CDI told us that this was "the largest group of all source analysts anywhere in the United Kingdom", which had a long-standing cell studying the Balkans.[480] The claimed expertise of the DIAS meant that DIS had a leading role in producing strategic analysis for UK policymakers. The Committee was refused access to officials from the JIC. However, from the evidence we were able to gather, DIS does not appear to have performed well in two crucial areas: understanding the nature of the Serbian regime and forecasting the likely reactions of the Yugoslav leadership to NATO's air campaign."

191 For instance, on the crucial question of whether British intelligence analysis predicted the mass expulsion of Kosovo Albanians by Serb forces once the NATO air campaign began, Richard Hatfield, MoD Policy Director, told the Committee that "we had not predicted that sort of movement." We were told that DIS—

    ... knew that the ¼ Serbs intended to conduct a major offensive operation against the UCK [the KLA] starting March/April time. We knew that from intelligence.[481]

However, CDI told us that—

    ... we had no intelligence ¼ that ¼ would have said ¼ this is what he is positively going to do [the mass expulsion of Kosovars into neighbouring states].[482]

192 That NATO and the UK failed to assess and predict the reactions of Milosevic and his régime is evident in the widespread expectation that the campaign would require only a limited use of force over a few days and the fact that NATO and the UK were surprised by Serbia's tactic of expelling hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighbouring countries.[483] General Sir Rupert Smith admitted—

    There were areas where you will see we were wrong [in terms of intelligence assessments] ¼ where we mis-assessed the reaction of the Serbs, driving all those people out. Those [assessments] were demonstrably wrong in the event.

193 But the MoD has stressed the difficulty of predicting the actions of a particular leader. While the MoD does—

    ... some psychological research ¼ of a generic sort ¼ it is really difficult to get down to individual people's minds.[484]

Nonetheless, some efforts appear to have been made to understand the psychology of Milosevic and the levers that could be used to influence his regime's perceptions. CDS told us that—

    We had a good feel for how dangerous a man he was. We had a track record of what he had done.[485]

But, in contrast, the Permanent Secretary at the MoD said—

    We did not expect the barbarity or the savagery. We did not reckon on the readiness to do quite what they did ... I think it was quite difficult to get into the mind of not just Milosevic but his very close entourage, they were extremely good at maintaining, as it were, their own operational security.[486]

194 NATO gained some of its main insights into Milosevic from NATO leaders (General Clarke, Mr Solana and General Naumann) who had negotiated with him, as well as from its own Balkan experts and national intelligence sources (though member states certainly did not pass on all available intelligence).[487] The Defence Intelligence Staff has argued that it "had a fairly good understanding of what a complex person ¼ [Milosevic] was" but has also acknowledged that it failed to predict some of Milosevic's actions. It has explained this failure by arguing that "he is an opportunist" who is—

    ... quite willing to change his position very dramatically on a daily basis. That makes predictions extremely difficult.[488]

While this is a fair observation, it must be remembered that a key function of intelligence is not so much prediction but providing a range of possible futures of which planners can take account. The evidence is that some of Serbia's main responses to the air campaign, including conserving its air defences and ethnically cleansing Kosovo, were not raised as options for which UK or NATO planners should prepare.

195 A common fallacy is to believe that intelligence is concerned with forecasting the future and predicting the actions of an opponent. Intelligence can no more predict the future than can racing tipsters. However, a key role of strategic intelligence is to provide planners and policymakers with analysis of an adversary's future options so they are not caught unprepared and 'surprised' by events. This options analysis should be supported by a process of wargaming and scenario evaluation. We believe that, if it had been, it would not have been beyond the wit of trained intelligence analysts to have identified Milosevic's possible and likely responses more accurately.

196 But we do not place all the blame on failure of intelligence analysis. We believe the fault lies also with policy makers for not defining their intelligence requirements more exactly and for not probing the intelligence assessments with greater vigour; with planners for not thinking more imaginatively and laterally; and with the intelligence community more generally for not consulting more widely, including with regional experts in academia and NGOs.

197 The UK's and NATO's analysts cannot be expected to predict with certainty the future actions of a régime or an individual. Nonetheless, it is striking that they appeared to have failed to warn policy-makers of the full range of options open to Milosevic and the likelihood of his use of asymmetric responses, thereby leading to surprises for which the Alliance was unprepared.


198 On the interface with NATO, we learned from both the UK Ambassador to NATO and the UK Military Representative that the NAC and Military Committee had functioned much as intended. Vice-Admiral Haddacks, the UK's Military Representative to NATO, commented that NATO was very quick and very responsive, particularly with the UK. [489] Both DSACEUR, General Sir Rupert Smith, and COMARRC, General Sir Mike Jackson, were at pains to remind us that, as NATO officers, their first responsibility was to NATO and that their credibility amongst the allies was dependent upon being, and being seen to be, impartial in their interventions. Both, however, recognised their value as an 'informal' source of comment and as a conduit on the interface between NATO and UK.[490]

199 On the interaction of national and Alliance command structures, the MoD told us that 'current arrangements appear to work well overall', but it also admitted that 'there may be scope for links between PJHQ and the appropriate NATO headquarters to be strengthened."'[491] We expect the scope for better coordination between the Permanent Joint Headquarters and NATO headquarters to be spelled out in more detail in the response to this report.

200 There are also questions about the nature and quality of the links between US and NATO command structures. General Sir Rupert Smith reminded us that "something in the order of 80 to 85% of the equity lay with the United States".[492] The US DoD reported to Congress that—

    NATO's command structure worked well, but parallel US and NATO command-and-control structures complicated operational planning and unity of command.[493]

General Naumann commented, when challenged about implicit claims of a chain of command over-dominated by the US, that—

    It would be the wrong conclusion to say that the United States of America waged a war within a war, that is not true. They provided assets which we did not have. SACEUR tried to harmonise the impact these assets may have as well as it could into NATO's campaign plan. Under the given circumstances we could not have achieved much more.

But he went on to say—

    Strictly speaking, from a NATO point of view I think one has to make sure that a NATO Commander is given the maximum unity of command and the right to really see it through. Nations, I think, have to think through—I should put it as cautiously as I can—they should prepare to think through to which degree they are really willing to transfer authority to NATO. At the moment the formulas which we have definitely allow for improvements under difficult conditions, as we had.[494]

201 There are claims made that the US effectively ran a separate war during Operation Allied Force. The French Ministry of Defence, in its November 1999 report, comments—

    Our partners noted the complex decision-making and information process within the Atlantic Alliance. The 19 allies indeed jointly decided on and conducted, on a political level, NATO's engagement in the crisis. However, despite the universally recognized need for a single command, it has to be admitted that part of the military operations was conducted by the United States outside the strict NATO framework and procedures. The Supreme Allied Commander of the operation—SACEUR—is accountable not only to the Atlantic Council, but also to his own national hierarchy at the very highest level.[495]

The same report also criticises the determination of the USA (as well as the UK) to keep their cruise missile launch platforms under national control.[496]

202 While a certain discount needs to be applied to French views of American domination of the Alliance, these complaints are too persistent and come from too many sources to be dismissed as groundless. The efforts to blend the US Joint Task Force Noble Anvil operation into the Allied campaign appear to have been at times clumsy and inappropriate. This resulted in dual tasking orders and caused frustration. In practice, to those on the ground it often seemed that there were two separate missions, the US and the NATO one, being undertaken at the same time. It is unsurprising that the contributors of over 80% of the firepower will take a dominant decision-making role. The UK or France would expect to do the same in similar circumstances. Two views of the US within NATO can be taken—that its dominance pushes the Alliance in directions for which there is less than full consensus; or that its willingness to work within NATO acts as an almost self-imposed constraint on US military might in which European views of the world carry more weight than they otherwise would. We favour the latter view.

203 The NATO military command structure for Kosovo, running from SACEUR to CINCSOUTH and on via his Component Commanders and into theatre has been described by General Wesley Clark as "about as complex a command structure as anyone would ever fear to see. But we had it and we worked it."[497] The MoD's Policy Director commented—

    I think that is part of the wider lessons NATO has learned, that it was not configured, optimised, to fight that sort of operation.[498]

On our visit to NATO HQ in February of this year, we formed the distinct impression that the idealised wiring diagrams and flow charts reflecting NATO's command and control arrangements, and its associated staff procedures, had rapidly been thrown aside under the pressures of a real operation, and that this was an operation in which the element of political discretion was far higher than had ever been envisaged within the mindset of the Cold War in which NATO had grown up. We were also surprised that greater focus was not placed upon the development and use of more structured NATO Combined Joint Task Forces, a concept introduced with many fanfares at the Brussels Summit in 1994. Vice-Admiral Haddacks told us—

    We have learned lessons on the whole operational planning process which in this crisis worked okay, but were not necessarily completely coherent and joined up. In the wake of the crisis we have taken a very hard look at the whole operational planning structure and methodology and we have decided that there are better ways of doing it. In fact, NATO has now drawn on UK best practice to set in place the thought process that starts with a political military estimate, moves on from that to a planning directive, and then draws out of that various military options. We practised that process in this year's crisis exercise 2000 for the first time.[499]

He also told us that—

    Modern technology makes it [NATO] a much flatter kind of organisation than it looks in the hierarchical diagram because daily, as we know, SACEUR had a video-tele conference with his commanders ... They have a dialogue, decisions are reached and direction is given. It is much more synthesised perhaps than the stark diagram would indicate.[500]

DSACEUR, General Sir Rupert Smith, also judged that the physical dislocation of NATO senior commanders did not give rise to any problems. He, too, emphasised that there were repeated video television conferences (for example with the Combined Air Operations Centre at Vincenza and AFSOUTH in Naples) and no shortage of communications. Indeed, he told us—

    You could argue that there was possibly too much of it ... I do not think he [SACEUR] lacked for air advice.[501]

204 General Jackson tended to be more critical. On the NATO side he told us that his one difficulty was the ability of the decision making machinery to deliver the decisions required in the most timely way.[502] Viewed from his perspective, it no doubt seemed that way, although we are mindful, too, of the inherent difficulties of getting quick decisions within an Alliance of 19 nations. Vice-Admiral Haddacks emphasised that NATO had digested some of these lessons, and that changes were in hand, particularly to enable the NAC to authorise the deployment of enabling forces in advance of any ACTORDs.[503] That, he told us, had been an important lesson. On matters of NATO doctrine, he warned that—

    There is a lot of work to be done in the overall area of doctrine ... Civil and military co-operation ... The whole peace support operations doctrine ... Doctrine on information operations ... There is a broad agenda of work that is under way ... lead nations have been nominated and the UK is a lead nation in a number of those areas, including peace support operations as a single subject.[504]

205 Overall, despite tensions, NATO appears to have delivered an ultimately effective command structure, if incorporating a good deal of improvisation. It worked, but the strains showed. The French Ministry of Defence comments—

NATO's procedures, essentially devised for scenarios implementing Article 5 ... were again shown to be inappropriate for the management of [a] non-Article 5 crisis. A highly reactive decision-making process is necessary and, at the same time, there needs to be a guaranteed consensus between the members of the Alliance. Ad hoc procedures were therefore established.[505]

It would, of course, help in achieving improved procedures within the Alliance if France were to rejoin NATO's integrated military structure. The MoD's own report on the lessons learned is more upbeat, asserting that—

    NATO proved itself to be a capable and effective crisis management organisation ... NATO's integrated military structure proved its worth in the Kosovo operation.[506]

The US DoD's report concludes that action is needed to—

  • enhance NATO's contingency planning process for operations outside the NATO area;
  • develop an overarching command-and-control policy and agree on procedures for the policy's implementation; and
  • enhance procedures and conduct exercises strengthening NATO's political-military interfaces.

206 If NATO is to meet the challenges of future crises—particularly in response to asymmetric threats—it must improve its performance in a number of planning aspects. First, it must streamline its own crisis management planning system. NATO must develop the ability to become truly proactive in its planning and crisis management techniques, outlining clearly a set of political scenarios from which military contingencies can be derived at an early stage. This requires an earlier input to the NAC to help clarify NATO's political objectives. General Naumann was clear that there should be no question of overriding the need for NAC authorisation in planning, "but to start thinking", as he pointed out, "I do not need a Council authorisation." In particular, he said, "we do not exploit the possibilities of modern technology in a sufficient way". NATO's Military Committee needs at least a 'supranational facility' for communication, simulation and planning, to offer the NAC better founded advice and support to help it get ahead of events.[507]

207 Second, the mechanisms of crisis management will always be challenging for a multinational organisation, but the Alliance must ensure that differences between the members are not created by NATO processes themselves: the way information is handled, the bureaucratic pace of dealing with events, or the failure to gather the relevant information at the appropriate time. As the Policy Director and the Chief of Defence Intelligence told us, NATO is looking at this aspect of its operations as part of a broader approach to lessons learned and the way in which it handles information.[508]

208 Third, NATO must address in particular the relationship between political and military planning. Vice-Admiral Haddacks described to us the way explicit political direction was handed down from the ministerial level to the military planners in NATO in May 1998 to draw up a range of contingency measures. He believed that this had been done "soon enough" to be effective.[509] He also described how all 19 nations in the Alliance "share ownership" of the planning as it passes from the North Atlantic Council, through the International Military Staff, to the responsible strategic commander, whose response back up the line is then shared among the national capitals. The Military Committee then provides an overall assessment which is offered to the Council in answer to its original request. This process will go through several iterations as the situation develops. As NATO planning becomes more detailed, national capitals also are allowed to comment and make their positions clear.[510]

209 This is ponderous, but we accept that it is necessarily part of managing an Alliance of 19 nations. We also accept that as a contingency planning process it worked reasonably well in the build up to this crisis. There is a distinction, however, between the planning and the execution phase of an operation and both General Smith and Sir John Goulden pointed to problems in the implementation of policy where Allies were not all working with the same information, and took different positions on the execution of the strategy.[511] Once political planning moves to military execution it becomes very difficult to maintain the transparent and consensual procedures described by Vice-Admiral Haddacks. There may be no sensible alternative to the politico-military interface he outlines. But NATO must streamline the way in which its international (political) staff work with the international military staff in the implementation phase to minimise friction and misunderstanding.

210 Fourth, NATO needs a greater ability to undertake its own coordination of intelligence information. As General Smith put it—

    You are entirely reliant upon the information that individual nations supply¼We will state our requirements as NATO but we cannot answer them ourselves. So the reliance, as a senior NATO commander, is entire.[512]

This cannot but slow down the planning process and build into it further discrepancies in the information available to different allies once operations begin. General Naumann told us that, "NATO intelligence is the collection of NATO nations' intelligence".[513] This is unavoidable, but intelligence-sharing is fundamentally a matter of trust, not just in the people handling it but also in the communications and processes through which it goes. Unless NATO has a better and trusted co-ordination system of its own, so that it can analyse better what it is getting from member nations, its efforts to streamline the political/military relationship in the execution of policy will be badly flawed.

211 We suspect though, that some of these issues will take a long while to resolve. We trust that the MoD will monitor the speed of response and seek to maintain the pressure for action where it is appropriate to do so. There are also two areas where both the UK and NATO manifested particular shortcomings—humanitarian co-operation and information operations—which we discuss now in more detail. These highlight most starkly the failure of NATO to confront effectively the 'asymmetric' tactics used by Milosevic.

461  The majority of forces contributed by UK [to Operation Allied Force] deployed under the Operation Control of SACEUR. Operational Control confers less authority than Operational Command. The NATO definitions of Operational Command and Operational Control are as follows:"Operational Command: The authority granted to a commander to assign missions or tasks to subordinate commanders to deploy units, to re-assign forces and to retain or delegate operational and/or tactical control as may be deemed necessary." "Operational Control: The authority delegated to a commander to direct forces assigned so that the commander may accomplish specific missions or tasks which are usually limited by function, time or location; to deploy units concerned, and to retain or assign tactical control of those units". In short, Operational Command gives a commander authority to do virtually what he likes with the forces under his command, whereas Operational Control only gives him authority to use those forces for the missions or tasks for which they have been specifically assigned by contributing nations. The effect of this is that if commanders with Operational Control wish to use their forces for tasks different to those for which they were assigned, they have to seek national approval. Similarly, if nations believe that their forces are being used or are likely to be used for tasks different to those they agreed, they can object; a process known as "raising the Red Card". Back

462  Cm 4724, para 5.7. Back

463  ibid, para 6.16. Back

464  ibid, para 6.14 Back

465  Q 101 Back

466  Q 268 Back

467  Q 101 Back

468  NAO, para 3.15. Back

469  Ev p 265, para 98 Back

470  Cm 4724, pp. 16-17. Back

471  Q 410 Back

472  Q 410 Back

473  Q 412 Back

474  Q 410 Back

475  Fifth Report, Session 1999-2000, The Defence Geographic and Imagery Intelligence Agency, HC100 Back

476  ibid, para 21 Back

477  ibid, para 14 Back

478  ibid, para 11 Back

479  DoD, p 74 Back

480  Q 295 Back

481  Q 344 Back

482  Q 346 Back

483  Q 921 Back

484  Q 471 Back

485  Q 324 Back

486  Q 77 Back

487  Q 896 Back

488  Q 318 Back

489  Q 848 Back

490  QQ 906, 913-15 Back

491  Ev p 250, para 39 Back

492  Q 909 Back

493  DoD, p 20 Back

494  QQ 1028-9 Back

495  Ministère de la Defense, Lessons from Kosovo (English version), November 1999, p 9 Back

496  ibid, p 19 Back

497 Back

498  Q 415 Back

499  Q 873 Back

500  Q 869 Back

501  Q 968 Back

502  Q 743 Back

503  Q 873 Back

504  Q 876 Back

505  Ministry of Defence, Paris, op cit, p 10 Back

506  Cm 4724, pp 18 and 19 Back

507  Q 900 Back

508  Q 415 Back

509  QQ 843, 844 Back

510  Q 846 Back

511  Q 851, 911 Back

512  Q 918 Back

513  Q 983 Back

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