Drones are our friends

Published: June 19, 2012

Why is it that we have not yet seen any strong confrontation or action from our government or military on the diplomatic front against drones?

There is a dichotomy of opinions between people about the ongoing drone attacks. Where some consider it to be a good deed when a terrorist is killed, others think of it as mass murder due to the innocent casualties attached to the attacks.

‘Drone’ is one word that every Pakistani knows of at the present time. It is one of the most useful inventions in modern warfare, after the birth of the AK-47. You don’t need a huge on-foot operation to eliminate your targets anymore, nor do you have to risk the lives of your men. Most importantly, drones give instant results which one cannot deny despite all the criticism attached to them.

If you happen to talk to the people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), like I have, you will find that most of them actually favour drone attacks, because lets accept it, most of the time they do manage to get the enemies who have disrupted their peace.

I agree that there have been some drone attacks in Pakistan which have, unfortunately, led to many civilian casualties. However, it would be silly to disregard the fact that collateral damage is just a part of such high level operations. Additionally, it is undeniable that many lives are being saved by eliminating terrorists one after the other.

If you disagree with me, allow me to enlighten you with some drone attacks in Pakistan, and the Arab peninsula, that have yielded effective results and should be acknowledged.

The following timeline highlights ten drone attacks which resulted in deaths of al Qaeda operatives or other militants. These deaths take us one step closer to victory in the war against terror.

  • June 18, 2004: 

Nek Muhammad Wazir was killed in Wana. He was the leader of anti-government militant forces in South Waziristan

  • November 30, 2005:

Abu Hamza Rabia who was al Qaeda’s third in command and was killed near Miranshah.

  • January 29, 2008:

Abu Laith al Libia member of al Qaeda was killed in a strike in North Waziristan.

  • October 31, 2008: 

Abu Jihad al Masri was the Chief of External Operations (CEO) for al Qaeda and was killed in North Waziristan.

  • November 22, 2008:

Rashid Rauf was a British al Qaeda operative and he, along with four others, including Abu Zubair al Masriwas killed in North Waziristan. Rauf was one of the masterminds of 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot and later became an explosive expert for al Qaeda.

  • June 3, 2011: 

Ilyas Kashmiri led al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil and was the operational commander of the Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HJUI). He was killed in the Karikot area of South Waziristan. He was also linked with the murder of Major General Ameer Faisal  Alvi.

Image: Ilyas Kashmiri

  • September 30, 2011:

Anwar al Awlakialso an al Qaeda operative was one of the most sought out leaders of al Qaeda. His teachings have given rise to thousands of extremists waging war against the US. He was killed in Sanaa, Yemen.

Image: Anwar al-Awlaki

  • October 14, 2011:

Ahmed Omar Abdul Rahman was a senior al Qaeda operative with ties to the Haqqani network. Rahman was a son of the ‘Blind Sheikh’, the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic group who was imprisoned in the US for his involvement in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre. He was killed in an air-strike in Afghanistan.

  • Feb 09, 2012: 

Badr Mansoor served as al Qaeda’s leader in Pakistan and was a key link to the Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups. Mansoor had been responsible for attacks that had killed scores of people, and was killed in a drone strike in Miranshah.

  • June 04, 2012:

Al Qaeda’s a second in command, Abu Yahya al Libiwas killed in Mir Ali in North Waziristan.

This last attack is proof that the leadership of al Qaeda is still harbouring itself in the tribal areas and despite its key players being killed, it seems to re-establish itself every time.

These were just a few examples of what drones are capable of delivering in the war against terror. If combat forces were to deliver similar results, it would cost them millions of dollars with a greater risk of civilian and militant casualties. We should also note that there has been active research and development to make lighter bombs called ‘Scorpio’. These are being used for drones now as they can reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

Collaboration between the US and Pakistan, with regards to drone technology is something I greatly look forward to. This would not only help defeat the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), but would be a great advancement of technology for our armed forces.

People speak of civilian casualties, that run high, but compare this number to the number of people that are victims of terrorist attacks all over the world or if that’s not enough, just look at the number of people killed in Pakistan; this might help you understand the importance of drones to some extent. Having said as much, I still think the technology can be made more sophisticated and advanced to make sure that there are zero civilian casualties.

The reason for this blog is to spread awareness amongst the people about the extremism that seems to have found a safe haven in the tribal areas. Its geographical location makes it almost impossible for a full scale operation on foot to take place and therefore, the authorities resort to drones.

Now one question still remains, who should have the trigger?

Our military should be the one in control of these remotely operated machines and policy makers should start a dialogue with the US to address our concerns with the trigger being in international hands. This way, we can protect our sovereignty and take active steps in the war against terror. Whatever the outcome, we need a zero tolerance policy against extremists to clear this mess in the tribal belt if we wish to see a safer Pakistan.

Why is it that we have not yet seen any strong confrontation or action from our government or military on the diplomatic front against drones?

Can it be that they consider drones to be exactly what we need at this time?

We only hear the officials condemn the attacks and throw in a couple of warnings, but we have yet to see solid action taken against them.

To all the readers, I leave you with these questions to answer and to judge based on those answers whether we are in denial about the positive aspects of drones or not.

PHOTOS: AFP / REUTERS

Read more by Hasaan here or follow him on Twitter @shanihashmi      

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Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

The writer is a political activist and a spokesperson for IHRP (Interfaith Harmony for Religious Peace). He tweets @shanihashmi

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

    @Keith Gentile:

    I agree with Keith Comment , If you stop drones you are just giving Terrorists time to re-organize and strike back, Recommend

  • Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

    @All

    Answering to the most asked question here , yes I met with many people from tribal area and I give the area a visit myself to check local ground realities , I agree that there are some strikes which result in innocent causalities , But understand a simple point that you have a war in that area , and this happen in war . But most of the time hardcore extremist terrorists got killed in these strikes and people are Happy about that , Because these terrorists have made their life living hell because of their terrorist activities all across Pakistan & AfghanistaRecommend

  • Kamil Ghumman

    What i dont understand is how can the writer so casually write that sometimes civilian casualties occur, for God’s sake they were innocent people that died along with the terrorists. How can we turn a blind eye towards those innocent deaths. What would have been our feelings if one of our family members had been one of the casuatlties? Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    @vasan:
    Keyboard warrior? Isn’t that literally what a drone operator is?Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Keith Gentile: “Obviously you received news in Pakistan of the atrocities committed by the Taliban while they were in power and what al Qaeda did and continues to attempt to replicate”

    Pakistan controls most talibans directly or indirectly. US let Pakistan take out a few plane loads. of Pakistan talibans, before war on terrorism started. It is a mystery why US keeps giving free AID to Pakistan and does not punish it for itss support of terrorists who attack and kill NATO, US forces and Afghani citizens.Recommend

  • Noise

    @Keith Gentile
    The drones are useful but they wont work in the long run because the Pakistani public does not want to face the ugly truth that there is a army of thousands of murdering fanatics holed in the tribal areas. They keep preaching to the American about their precious “sovereignty” but avoid the fact that the tribal territory is practically an independent state, a dagger stabbing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban are using the drone strikes as propaganda tool, using them to attract more gullible idiots to them. The comments above are ample proof of that. These are people who were silent when the Taliban were massacring people of other races and sects in Afghanistan but when a few Taliban are knocked off they protest, acting like they are “true pacifists” and “hate war and killing”.

    The number of militants killed in drone strikes is too few militants to offset the Taliban propaganda advantage. To get the balance back in their favor the Americans need come up with drones that kill a lot more people. Hell, dust off those B-52s and flatten Miranshah, that’s whats needed to win in Afghanistan. You dont win wars by winning hearts, you win by striking fear into their hearts, by destroying their resolve. You only won WW2 when you nuked Japan and bombed Germany to rubble, having them hide in their cellars praying the next bomb didnt fall on them. That is what you Americans have forgotten. The years have unmanned you as a people. You have forgotten the reality of war, forgotten how the world work, thats why you never really won anything after WW2 and always left behind a muddled mess. Recommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Keith Gentile:

    A Big “LOL” at your statement that I should read wikipedia about how my FATA people feel about the attack, statistics is what you get from reports,but the reaction and opinion of common people is an emotion that you gotta watch and listen with your own eyes and ears, I have met various ppl from FATA, the masons and the labours recently worked at my home , many of them were from these tribal regions, not a single person was happy with the drone attacks, now why should I believe the author or you that these citizens of tribal regions are SATISFIED when I personally have listened to their grievances.
    You want me to justify the endless and mindless killings ? What could be more justification that there have been frequent suicide attacks on Pakistani armed forces because they are supporting the US and fighting their goddamn war, isnt that endless and mindless killings?? which are still continued and have reached all over Pakistan ,all the big cities had been attacked by the same people, Peshawar is being targeted every now and then, what more proof do you need.
    I was NOT comparing the current rule with the previous ones, but yes again I dont believe everything what the world media wants the fool of us to believe . I dont care enough about Afghanistan , but I do because its instability is directly affecting my country, which was never before your stupid attack on Afghanistan , the war which is STILL a failure. If I would be an Afghani I would have risked my life 100 times to bring stability to my country and the region, BUT if I knew that the ppl fighting in my country are not sincere in bringing the peace back and they just want to get out of the mess they created themselves, I would rather kill them , because If I dont they will kill me and call me a militant for not “cooperating” in their so called WOT .
    Now please , at first You wrote the wrong stats and inn each post You are just ASSUMING things, how could I trust a country whose “self made” intelligence failure attacked iraq for oil and lying about WMDs , committing humanitarian crimes there , I mean its ridiculous , Crimes in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan , Pakistan and the list goes on, enough of this stupid reasoning because no one in Pakistan is buying the “American Dreams”, any more , let me tell you Pakistanis dont hate American people, they hate their stance towards Pakistan which is hypocritical .Recommend

  • Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

    @Sarah:
    You need to understand geographical location of tribal area first to compare it with newyork , newyork is a urban city having strong counter terrorist force
    tribal areas is no Urban place , Agency like N.Wazirstan is xtremliy hard to travel , 2nd its not easy to do a operation there on foot as the reaction from terrorists and common people will be strong .Recommend

  • Pirzada Hasaan Hashmi

    @Sarah:
    Re-action from the people will be against not due to their support of terrorists but because of their tribal customs
    So you need to understand the area first to compare it .
    regardsRecommend

  • Keith Gentile

    @Saad Siddiqui:

    Once again, we have at it. The reports from the tribal areas in Pakistan were conducted by Pakistanis and not Wikipedia, which merely reported on them. Now you can go on about your personal accounts–which may or may not be representative–but if you were to ask me to believe your personal account, I would have to believe in little green men, leprechauns, little fairies and big foot. All of these have their “personal accounts” and include people who will stare you in the face and swear that they’ve seen one, were accosted by them, were dissected by them, or had sex with them.

    I do not want to equate the likelihood to your personal experience to those above, but what I do want to say is there is conflicting personal accounts in this matter and the only studies that I am aware of are those mentioned in Wikipedia. But please feel free to present your own scientifically based studies and I will take them into account.

    As for your moral arguments, I simply don’t see them. You have been talking about how heartless the US has been in conducting a drone war against militants, then you say you don’t care about the people of Afghanistan but only your own self-interest in Pakistan. Fair enough (and I do appreciate your honesty). But I find it more than a little hypocritical that you would ride so high on your moral donkey in comparing your own morality to that of others.

    Your reference to “your stupid attack on Afghanistan, the war which is STILL a failure,” again conveniently disconnects the reason for it and makes the assumption it happened inexplicably in a vacuum. And the “failed war” you mentioned turns a blind eye to the main reasons for the attacks, which were to remove the Taliban from power and bring those responsible for 9/11 to justice. Both of which have been almost entirely accomplished.

    Excuse us for not being able to completely eliminate the Taliban, but there is a country that cares more about its honor, hiding behind national sovereignty, than it does about ridding the world of tyranny.

    Then you bravely declare that you would risk your life 100 times to bring “stability” to your own country, while sidestepping the actual question of whether you would risk your life to rid your country of tyranny. Does risking your life for stability mean backing whoever is in power regardless of their brutality, in that stability is more important? Would you back the–in my opinion, highly unethical–Raj? The British provided “peace and stability.” Would you risk spilling your own blood to DEFEND that for the sake of stability?

    And how innately stable is a tyrannical regime? Especially one whose purpose is to unite the world under its personal definition of Koranic Law. Remember–and this is VERY important yet so often overlooked by people who are against conflict no matter the reason: When you decide not to fight a clear and present danger to your society and the world in order to save a few lives today, yes, you may pat yourself on the back and declare yourself a savior of men, but in doing so you must also take direct responsibility for the outcome of your decision. And that outcome could be a far larger conflict that will draw in many more people and produce vastly more dead. And this blood will be on YOUR hands.

    Although convoluted, your last sentence in that paragraph seems to be saying that while you would fight for stability, if foreigners were involved and they planned on leaving the country soon that you would kill them before they would misidentify you as a militant and kill you?

    Perhaps what you meant to say was that you would kill them if they showed no signs of wanting to leave but would stay on indefinitely? Whatever it is you wanted to say, please clarify. Because right now it sounds not only discombobulated but awfully bloody-minded for the “peacenik” you portend to be.

    My suspicion is that the reason for this–frankly bizarre–statement is desperation resulting in cognitive dissonance. As further evidence, you end with the final paragraph where you throw in whatever rhetorical skills you can muster: first, an ad hominem attack followed by redirecting the subject–and in doing so–presenting an entirely new ad hominem attack, the subject of which is so complex in its very nature, you know it can never be practically addressed in a comments section. And serves as nothing other than to wave your left hand to distract from what the right is doing. Recommend

  • bangash

    Drones are useful and their attacks on terrorists should continue.Recommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Keith Gentile:

    Well well well, you seem to have now idea what I was talking about, you totally misunderstood what I wrote, and You arent clarifying what I have challenged your precious arguments , anyway am not asking you to believe on my statement of my personal encounters, because for that I already gave you enough stats., and if you want you are most welcome to visit my country and have your own personal account , interview ppl , ask them , talk to them so that you will not have to believe me .

    Well I didnt ask you to judge my level of hypocrisy , neither we are talking about each other’s personality or behaviours here, you wana talk about the level of hypocrisy ? Ok here it goes, according to CIA, Al-Qaeda ppl killed innocent ppl on 9/11 , USA attacked Afghanistan and killed innocent ppl, set up prisons and violated the humanitarian laws by torturing prisoners . Same was the case with Iraq , to save the world from not-to-be-found-ever WMDs they invaded iraq , so whoz being hypocrite here ? US says they wants peace and stability in the middleeast and southasia , Wow is that you being peace and stability, isnt that the same thing you are accusing me of ?

    Now as you have mentioned “morality”, 1st of all you should look into mirror, you are saying that the purpose of attacking Afghanistan was to to remove Taliban from power and to being justice to those responsible, so now as per you , you have achieved it , isnt that your moral responsibility to bring back stability instead of running away ? like you did in the previous war ? like you did in Iraq ? I mean what’s the moral thing you have done in the whole war ?

    and Now that you are pointing at Pakistan for hiding behind national sovereignty, there is a country which call its self the best democracy hence supported and is supporting the dictators in middle-eastern countries .

    about risking my life, I said I would risk my life for stability ,i didnt said that i support taliban rule , but that would be my country’s internal matter, i would not like someone to tell me that you have the bad rules and i will remove them for you , NO a big NO , i will fight them my way and if you attack my country then i will fight you too , because you have no right to oppress my countrymen , taliban rule was bad , post 9/11 situation is worst .

    and my last paragraph was to tell you about your crimes against humanity and your moral responsibilities which you chose to ignore

    , Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Saad Siddiqui: “Ok here it goes, according to CIA, Al-Qaeda ppl killed innocent ppl on 9/11 , USA attacked Afghanistan and killed innocent ppl, set up prisons and violated the humanitarian laws by torturing prisoners .

    US did not kill innocent people in Afghanistan. These humanitarian laws were made long before Muslims started terrorism as a way to fight. Pakistan has killed a 1000 times more innocent people in Afghanistan by sending non-state actors (talibans) in Afghanistan. All these groups like al-quieda, LeT etc are contract killers for Pakistan. One Pakistani under custody of US government has claimed that he planned the attacks. I think ISI was also involved in 9/11 attacks. All the killings in the Afghanistan are result of direct or indirect interference of Pakistan in AfghanistanRecommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Vikram:

    As I told you before I would not answer you baseless and out of the topic comments !Recommend

  • Keith Gentile

    So to avoid any of the points I’ve made concerning the merits/morality of drone warfare, you are now waving your left hand while doing your best to start an off-topic tap dance. Pretty much all that is left is one-handed juggling while balancing a ball on the end of your nose.

    In conclusion, I think you said it best when you said:

    “As I told you before I would not answer you baseless and out of the topic comments !”

    And I’ll let The Enlightenment say the rest.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Saad Siddiqui:

    Why Pakistan government will try to blame al-Qaida for Bombay 26/11 attacks and protect LeT terroristswho actually slaughtered 40 Indian Muslims and 135 non-Muslims from 12 different countries? This information given out by Dawood Gilani / David Headley shows Pakistan government’s involvement with LeT and al-Qiada.

    LeT terrorists killed 6 Americans too, I hope Americans will trace killers of 6 Americans and their bosses and punissh them.

    Why Pakistanis killed 40 Indian Muslims? Why terrorists pretended to be Hindus?

    Headley has also spoken of how post-26/11, ISI wanted LeT to disown the Mumbai attack in order to prevent global attention to the terror group, which Pakistan considers to be an important strategic asset to be used against India. With Ajmal Kasab as the only terrorist captured, ISI wanted to blame the terrorist act on al-Qaida. It even prepared a list of 4-5 al-Qaida figures who were to be projected as the conspirators. The plan, however, did not work due to resistance from Lashkar leaders, particularly Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_HeadleyRecommend

  • Saad Siddiqui

    @Keith Gentile:

    You can ignore the truth I said by calling it and “off-topic” dance and by brushing it aside with your idiomatic statements, with just ignorance left in your argument there is nothing much left to answer. Referring to not answering baseless and out of the topic comments, that I said for the other reason to the other person ,not You.. I believe that the ignorance will prevailRecommend

  • Saad Siddiqui

    @Vikram:

    LOL ,You seems to like to brag about india so much that you don’t even know what’s the topic is all about, you see the problem of indians here on ET ? Where ever they see the word “Pakistan”, they say “Oh, this means war ! Jay Hind ! Jay bharat mata ! Lets fight with these Pakistanis” because they choose the ignore the rest of the words written on the whole page, the only thing they see is the word “Pakistan” , I like the way you ppl feel so insecure when it comes to Pakistan.

    To Sum up all this, are we talking about india here ? No

    are we talking about Kashmir or Mumbai attacks ? No

    are we talking about indian hindus and muslims ? No

    does drone attacks have any thing to do with india ? No

    Should i answer your out of topic questions ? A 10 times NoRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Mr Hashmi

    Your article is well explained. Your statements appears to be credible since you personaly talked to the tribal people who do not object to drones killing their families and loved ones. Just one question; what did they say ‘WE’ in Pushto, assuming that you did speak to them in Pushto language.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Future_of_Pak

    Completely agree overall with Saad Siddiqui’s comments. People find it really easy to hold Pakistan solely responsible for a fairly big, global problem. A whopping majority of the 180 million people in Pakistan want to put a stop to any groups resorting to terrorism to get their points across. It would be nice if our friends from other countries saw this big problem that we have and tried to offer constructive, helpful advice instead of just bashing us on our own forums. There is no need to be so angry all the time guys, you know who you are …Recommend

  • shafi

    I just want to ask the writer are these drones attacks legal.Recommend

  • Dissapppointeed

    Well Mr. Author… u should have mentioned the other side of the story too; 30,000 innocent Pakistanis including soldiers, children and women sacrificed their lives for this so called “war against terror”……Is this fair ? … The fact is “the war”, in itself, is an act of terrorism !!Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Dissapppointeed: “Well Mr. Author… u should have mentioned the other side of the story too; 30,000 innocent Pakistanis including soldiers, children and women sacrificed their lives”

    Pakistan is involved in “war on terror” for money only? Who killed 30,000 Pakistanis and how they were killed.

    Pakistan has been playing talibans in Afghanistan and killing Afghanis for the last 30 years?Recommend

  • Poor Pakistani

    i don’t even want to comment on this piece.

    But, a question by someother reader: Would you be supporting it if one or more from your family or loved one(s) would have been under the tag of “few civilian casualties”?Recommend

  • JAwad Sabir

    PEOPLE!!! chek the number of votes “for” the article…..and the number of comments against the rubbish articleRecommend

  • Samrat

    @Sarah:
    If such a problem found US marine will appear in the scene immediately and will eliminate the threat. Your army/security forces don’t have control over that area. Why you shout sovereignty? US have full right to ensure its security and continue whatever whatever they think is best to eliminate those notorious human (?) . Actually you people don’t tolerate that your Taliban brothers are being killed without any loss of American life. As the author said if you got a problem with that and go and clear up that area. Only a civilized nation deserve no foreign interfere within their land. Until you became a basic civilization this will continue. Fill free to keep shouting and biting each others head. Recommend

  • Zeeg

    @Saad Siddiqui:
    //Would you be supporting it if your whole family would have been under the tag of “few civilian casualties” ???//
    Thanks for making others realise “your way” of empathy. Let’s put it the other way round now: would you be supporting the drones if your whole family (or a even a single family member) has been brutally killed by the Taliban/Al-Qaeda?Recommend

  • Saad Siddiqui

    @Zeeg:

    NO, Why would I be supporting other innocents being killed by drones, just because my family was killed by Taliban. 2 Wrongs doesn’t make right, killing an innocent to avenge the death of other innocent , wont do any justice .If this is the justice in your eyes then I have nothing to say Recommend

  • Zeeg

    @Saad Siddiqui:
    Who told you that the drones are killing innocent people? Recommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Zeeg:

    Wow ! If you really have read all my comments I have posted all the statistics with is source, I hope you can read easy maths, secondly I have met the men from those areas, for example a 12 year old boy who was a son of a labour who worked at my house was killed in a drone strike. So I dont need someone telling me that innocents are being killed . Recommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Zeeg:

    I guess You havent read my previous posts, with all the sources mentioning about innocent being killed, I hope you know how to read . Plus I have met ppl , the labours who worked at my house, one kid who was 12, he used to come with his uncle to work, and later when he went back home, his home was in the tribal areas, he was killed in a drone . If you dont believe this you can just read the statistics , if you cant believe that, then come and talk to the people of Fata, i you still cant do that, then i cant help you Recommend

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  • Zeeg

    @Saad Siddiqui:
    I don’t know which city are you living in but you don’t need to tell me about FATA as I’m myself from FATA. If you can afford to leave the comfort zone of your city, I can take you to FATA and you will have the opportunity to talk to the people there. Recommend

  • http://pakistaniforlife.blogspot.com Saad Siddiqui

    @Zeeg:
    I dont care if you are from FATA, and really you dont know about your people yourself, as I have met the families from FATA who are working in the urban cities of Pakistan, whose families have lost their homes and people.Read the very first link I shared, it is an example , just because none of your family has been killed by drones doesnt mean that innocent ppl are not being killed .Recommend