Third_Anglo-Afghan_war by zzzmarcus


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Third Anglo-Afghan War

Third Anglo-Afghan War
Third Anglo-Afghan War
Date Location Result 6 May – 8 August 1919 North-West Frontier of India and Afghanistan British Minor Tactical Victory Reaffirmation of Durand Line, Afghan independence in foreign affairs

The root cause of the Third Afghan War lies many years before the actual fighting commenced. For the British in India, Afghanistan was long seen as a potential source of threat. Not only were the Afghans themselves a threat, but for a long time the British worried about Russian intentions in the region, concerned that a possible invasion of India could be launched by Tsarist forces through Afghanistan. This period became known as the Great Game. In an effort to negate this threat, the British made numerous attempts at imposing their will upon Kabul, and over the course of the Nineteenth century fought two very bloody and costly wars: the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–1842) and the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880).[2] The end of the Second Afghan War in 1880 marked the beginning of almost forty years of reasonably good relations between Britain and Afghanistan under the leadership of Abdurrahman and Habibullah, during which time the British attempted to manage Afghan foreign policy through the payment of a large subsidy.[3] Ostensibly, the country remained independent, however, under the Treaty of Gandamak (1879) it was accepted that in regards to external matters it would "have no windows looking on the outside world, except towards India".[3] The death in 1901 of Amir Abdurrahman led indirectly to the war that began eighteen years later. His successor, Habibullah, was an unreliable and unstable leader who alternately sided with Britain and Russia according to whoever paid the highest price. [4]. Despite feeling considerable resentment over not being consulted over the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 (Convention of St. Petersburg), Afghanistan remained neutral during the First World War (1914–1918), resisting considerable pressure from the Ottoman Empire when it entered the conflict on the side of Imperial Germany and the Sultan (the titular leader of Islam), called for a jihad against the Allies.[5] However, despite remaining neutral in the conflict, Habibullah did in fact accept a

Belligerents Afghanistan Commanders Amanullah Khan General Nadir Khan Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Barrett Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer Brigadier-General Alexander Eustace • United Kingdom India

Strength 50,000 men in 21 cavalry regiments and 75 infantry battalions, plus 280 modern guns and up to 80,000 tribesmen Eight divisions, five independent brigades and three cavalry brigades (understrength and depleted), plus a number of modern aircraft, armoured cars and artillery

Casualties and losses approx. 1,000 1,751 (500 dead from cholera)

The Third Anglo-Afghan War (also referred to as the Third Afghan War) began on 6 May 1919 and ended with an armistice on 8 August 1919. Whilst it was essentially a minor tactical victory for the British in so much as they were able to repel the regular Afghan forces, in many ways it was a strategic victory for the Afghans. For the British, the Durand Line was reaffirmed as the political boundary between Afghanistan and British India and the Afghans agreed not to foment trouble on the British side. The Afghans finally won the right to conduct their own foreign affairs as a fully independent state.[1]


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Turkish-German mission in Kabul and military assistance from the Central Powers as he attempted to play both sides of the conflict for the best deal.[6] Through continual prevarication he resisted numerous requests for assistance, however, he failed to keep in check troublesome tribal leaders, intent on undermining British rule in India, as Turkish agents attempted to foment trouble along the frontier.[5] The departure of the large majority of the Indian Army to fight overseas, and news of British defeats at the hands of the Turks, aided the Turkish agents in their efforts at sedition and in 1915 there was unrest amongst the Mohmands and then the Mahsuds. Notwithstanding these outbreaks, though, the frontier generally remained settled at a time when Britain could ill afford trouble.[5] The Turco-German mission had left Kabul in 1916, however, by that time it had successfully convinced Habibullah that Afghanistan was an independent nation and that it should be beholden to no one. With the end of the First World War, Habibullah sought to gain reward from the British government for his assistance during the war. Looking for British recognition of Afghanistan’s independence in regards to the conduct of its foreign affairs, he demanded a seat at Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. This request was denied by the Viceroy, Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, since attendance at the conference was confined to the belligerents. Further negotiations were scheduled, though, but before they could begin Habibullah was assassinated.[7] This resulted in a power struggle as Habibullah’s eldest son, Nasrulla who was not a strong character, proclaimed himself as his father’s successor, whilst in Kabul, Amanullah, the third son, had also proclaimed himself Amir. However, the Afghan army suspected Amanullah’s complicity in the death of his father. Needing a way of cementing his power, upon seizing the throne in April 1919, Amanullah posed himself a man of democratic ideals, promising reforms in the system of government. He stated that there should be no forced labour, no tyranny or oppression and that Afghanistan should be free and independent and no longer bound by the Treaty of Gandamak.[3] Upon seizing the throne, Amanullah had his brother Nasrulla arrested for their father’s murder and had him sentenced to life

Third Anglo-Afghan War
imprisonment. Nasrulla had been the leader of a more conservative element in Afghanistan and his treatment rendered Amanullah’s position as Amir somewhat tenuous. By April 1919 he realised that if he could not find a way to placate the conservatives he would be unlikely to maintain his hold on power. Looking for a diversion from the internal strife in the Afghan court and sensing advantage in the rising civil unrest in India following the Amritsar massacre[8] Amanullah decided to invade British India.[9]

Opposing forces
In 1919 the Afghan regular army was not a very formidable force, and was only able to muster some 50,000 men. These men were organised twenty-one cavalry regiments and seventy-five infantry battalions, with about two hundred and eighty modern artillery pieces, organised into seventy batteries, in support.[10] In addition to this, however, in a boost to his army’s strength, the Afghan command could call upon the loyalty of up to 80,000 frontier tribesmen and an indeterminate number of deserters from local militia units under British command. In reality, the Afghan regular army was not ready for war. As in past years, the upper levels of the officer corps was riddled with political intrigue. In his book on the campaign, Lieutenant-General George Molesworth gave the following evaluation of the Amir’s army: "Afghan regular units...were illtrained, ill-paid, and probably under strength. The cavalry was little better than indifferent infantry mounted on equally indifferent ponies. Rifles varied between modern German, Turkish and British types, to obsolete Martinis and Snyders. Few infantry units had bayonets. Artillery was ponydrawn, or pack, and included modern 10cm Krupp howitzers, 75mm Krupp mountain guns and ancient 7 pounder weapons. There were a few, very old, four-barrel Gardiner machine guns. Ammunition was in short supply and distribution must have been very difficult. For the artillery much black powder was used, both as a propellent and bursting charge for shells. The


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Kabul arsenal workshops were elementary and mainly staffed by Sikh artificers with much ingenuity but little real skill. There was no organised transport and arrangements for supply were rudimentary".[11] In support of the regulars, the Afghan command expected to call out the tribes, which could gather up to 20,000 or 30,000 fighters in the Khyber region alone. In stark contrast to the regulars, the tribal lashkars were probably the best troops that the Afghans had, being of excellent fighting quality, well armed, mainly with weapons that they had made themselves or stolen from the garrisons and with plenty of ammunition.[12]

Third Anglo-Afghan War
latter being demonstrated to the Afghans by a bombing raid on Kabul itself.[13] But the main problem for the British was manpower. The troops in India were no longer of the standard that they might otherwise have been at another time. Coming just after the end of a very costly war in Europe, the British will to fight and military-industrial capability to fight another war was very low. The Indian Army had been heavily committed to the First World War and had endured a large number of casualties.[14]. Many of its units still had not returned from overseas, and those that had begun a process of demobilisation and as such many regiments had lost almost all their most experienced men.[10] Likewise, the British Army in India had been gutted. Prior to 1914 there had been sixty-one British regiments[15] serving in India. However, of these all but ten (two cavalry and eight infantry) had been withdrawn in order to fight in Europe or the Middle East. In their place, units of the Territorial Army, part time soldiers usually only intended for home defence but who had volunteered for overseas service, had been sent in order to release regular units for the fighting in France. After four years of mundane garrison duty, away from their families and disaffected, most of these men were understandably really only interested in demobilisation and returning to Britain to get on with their lives. They were in no way prepared for a hard fought campaign on the Indian frontier.[16]

A Royal Air Force Handley Page bomber In meeting this threat, the British could call on a much larger force. By May 1919, British and Indian forces, not including frontier militia, totalled eight divisions, as well as five independent brigades of infantry and three of cavalry. But whilst they had this large force in existence, it was needed elsewhere as well, and at least initially, within the immediate North-West Frontier area, the resources that the British could use were limited to two horse-mounted cavalry brigades, two infantry divisions, and three frontier brigades as well as a number of frontier militia and irregular corps.[13] Artillery was also in short supply, and the two divisions on the frontier each had only eight 18-pdrs, four 4.5-inch howitzers, and eight 2.75-inch mountain guns. The cavalry brigades were each equipped with four 13-pound guns that were crewed by the Royal Horse Artillery. Machine guns, at least on the Khyber front, were old .303 Maxims. The British gained a command and control advantage with their use of motor transport and wireless communications while armoured cars and RAF detachments increased their firepower and reach, the

Timeline of Events
(Sources: Barthorp 2002; Wilkinson-Latham & McBride 1977).

Importance of British Airpower
Airpower proved to be one of the greatest assets that the British possessed during this conflict. Not only did it allow them to extend their reach beyond the border and bomb Kabul, but it also enabled them to harass the retreating enemy and to break up tribesmen as they attempted to form larger groups prior to launching an attack. Later, following the war, Chief of the Air Staff, the then Sir Hugh Trenchard, proposed controlling the frontier by air power alone. This plan had proved


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Date Event

Third Anglo-Afghan War

3 May 1919 Afghan troops cross the border at the western end of the Khyber and occupy the village of Bagh, the source of the water supply for Landi Kotal. 6 May 7 May 9 May The Indian government declares war upon Afghanistan following an incursion by Afghan forces on May 3. 2nd Somerset Light Infantry hurried through the Khyber Pass in a convoy of 67 lorries with their canopies down to conceal their presence from tribesmen. Afghan positions at Bagh attacked, however, the commanding officer fails to achieve concentration of force and cannot capture all his objectives. Three BE2C aircraft from the Royal Air Force launch an airstrike on a gathering of hostile tribesmen at Dacca, on the Afghan side of the border. Afghans attack Landi Kotal. It is supported by twenty-two machine guns and after thirty minutes of indirect fire support from eighteen guns, the Afghans are driven towards the Lower Khyber at the point of the bayonet by the 2nd North Staffords and two battalions of the 11th Gurkhas, where they are caught by intensive fire from mountain batteries. No counter-attack is launched, as tribesmen are more interested in looting the battlefield than continuing the fight. British and Indian troops take western Khyber with no opposition. Enemy is pursued over the border to Dacca in an effort to highlight their victory to the tribesmen. Once there, the poorly-sited British camp comes under long-range artillery fire, followed by an infantry assault. This assault is repulsed and a counter attack launched, however, the position is not consolidated and it is not until May 17 that the Afghans abandon their defences and their guns. Unfortunately successful has the opposite effect and trouble breaks out in the British rear along the line of communication through the Khyber Pass, which is guarded by the Khyber Rifles, which is beginning to show signs of disaffection with many desertions. British attack ’Stonhenge Ridge’. After preliminary bombardment, Sikhs attack but are halted by 08.00 hours when ammunition runs out. By 10.30 hours resupply is achieved and a fresh attack launched at 14.00 hours in intense heat. After further bombardment, the enemy line is attacked and the Sikhs reach the top of the escarpment to find that the Afghans had retired leaving equipment, guns and standards. Fighting in the eastern Khyber and numerous raids by the Afghans. British posts in Kurram Valley are abandoned, whilst widescale desertions occur amongst the both the North Waziristan Militia and the South Waziristan Militia, and General Eustace orders these posts also be abandoned. At Wana, the militia attack British officers and other loyal men who must fight their way out, until they encounter a relief column of the Zhob Militia. Kabul is bombed by Handly-Page bombers. An attack by Afghan troops on Thal with supporting artillery fails. Frontier constabulary decamp, allowing the Afghans to occupy a tower five hundred yards from the fort and burn numerous food dumps, making the situation for the troops in the fort more desperate. They are now living on tinned meat and biscuits as there is no fresh meat or vegetables left. A relief force under Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer reaches Darsaman, which is nine miles away from Thal. The following day Dyer launches an attack at first light which is still in progress when the Afghans approach his headquarters under a flag of parley. They deliver a message informing Dyer that the Amir Amanullah has ordered General Nadir Khan to suspend hostilities. Uncertain if it

11 May

13 May

16 May

23 May

24 May 27 May

1 June


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Third Anglo-Afghan War

is a ruse or not, Dyer seeks clarification from higher command, but unwilling to take chances replies: "My guns will give an immediate reply, but your letter will be forwarded to the Divisional Commander". The attack continues and the Afghans withdraw. Dyer orders lancers supported by armoured cars to advance and harass the enemy. Further north, aerial attacks by the Royal Air Force disperse gathering tribesmen. 3 June 8 August Afghan camp at Yusef Khel, which was deserted, seized by British forces. The armistice is signed. Peace treaty of Rawalpindi signed.

A Royal Air Force BE2C highly successful in Mesopotamia, Aden and the Transjordan, however, due to the uniqueness of the North-West Frontier and also due to inter-service politics the plan was not accepted until later. In 1937, it was eventually decided that should another war break out with Afghanistan, or in the event of a major tribal uprising, the RAF would take the offensive, whilst the ground forces would act defensively.[17]

2nd/5th Royal Gurkha Rifles, North-West Frontier 1923 much more complicated than might seem obvious. In going to war in 1919 against British India, it is questionable what exactly the Amir Amanullah was hoping to achieve as he must almost certainly have known that even up against a depleted Indian Army he stood no chance in actually winning a tactical victory in a prolonged conflict. However, Amanullah may have felt that he could win a strategic victory, and based upon the settlement afterwards, it could be argued that this was in fact achieved.[3] As a result of the peace treaty, the British withdrew the handsome subsidy that they were paying the Afghans and withdrew from them the right to import arms from India, whilst the Afghans gained the right to conduct their own foreign affairs as a fully independent state.[3] For the British, the Durand Line which had long been a contentious issue between the two nations, was reaffirmed as the political boundary separating Afghanistan from the North-West Frontier and the Afghans made an undertaking to stop their seditious activities on the British side of the line.[3] Thus, in affect, both sides could make

Deciding the outcome of the Third Afghan War is somewhat difficult. Ostensbily, by virtue of the fact that the British repulsed the Afghan invasion and drove them from Indian territory and that Afghan cities felt the weight of the Royal Air Force’s bombers, the result of the conflict was a British tactical victory. However, in achieving this the British and Indian troops suffered almost double the amount of casualties that the Afghans suffered and so, as such, a certain degree of tarnish must be placed upon their victory. Therefore at best it can only be seen as a minor tactical victory for the British.[18] The circumstances behind the war were also


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claim that they achieved something from the war. But whilst the war was over, the effects that it had were not. The nationalism, disruption and unrest that it had sparked stirred up more trouble in the years to come, particularly in Waziristan.[19] The tribesmen, always ready to exploit weakness, whether real or perceived, banded together in the common cause of disorder and unrest. They had become well-armed too, as a result of the conflict, as they had benefitted greatly from the weapons and ammunition that the Afghans had left behind as well as from the influx of manpower in the large numbers of deserters from the militia that had joined their ranks. With these they launched a campaign of resistance to British authority on the North-West Frontier that was to last until the end of the Raj.[19]

Third Anglo-Afghan War
• 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) • 2nd/4th Battalion, The Border Regiment • 1st Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment • 1st Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire) • 1st/4th Battalion, The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment • 2nd Battalion, The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s) • 1st Battlation The Durham Light Infantry • 25th Battalion, The London Regiment • 1st Kent Cyclist Battalion, Army Cyclist Corps The Army Order was unusual in that a mistake was made in awarding the Afghanistan 1919 battle honour to The Hampshire Regiment and the 21st Lancers. This was subsequently rectified and the award to these two units was withdrawn.[21] Pursuant to Governor General’s Order 193/26:[23] • 1st Duke of York’s Own Skinner’s Horse • 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) • 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers (Watson’s Horse) • 7th Light Cavalry • 8th King George’s Own Light Cavalry • 11th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Cavalry (Frontier Force) • 12th Cavalry (Frontier Force) • 13th Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers • 15th Lancers • 16th Light Cavalry • 17th Queen Victoria’s Own Poona Horse • 103rd (Peshwar) Pack Battery (Frontier Force) (Howitzer) • 107th (Bengal) Pack Battery (Howitzer) • 108th (Lahore) Pack Battery • 115th (Jhelum) Pack Battery • Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners • King George’s Own Bengal Sappers and Miners • Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners • Burma Sappers and Miners • 1st Madras Pioneers • 2nd Bombay Pioneers • 3rd Sikh Pioneers • 1st Punjab Regiment • 2nd Punjab Regiment • 4th Bombay Grenadiers • 5th Mahratta Light Infantry • 6th Pajputana Rifles • 7th Rajput Regiment • 8th Punjab Regiment

Battle Honours
British and Indian infantry units that participated in the conflict received the battle honour ’Afghanistan 1919’. No other battle honours for individual engagements were issued. Additionally, unlike the first two AngloAfghan wars where individual campaign ribbons were issued for separate engagements, no campaign medal was struck for this conflict, instead participation in this conflict was recognised by a clasp to the India General Service Medal (1908–1935).[20] The awared of the battle honour was made in four separate Army and Governor General’s orders. The earliest, Army Order 97/24, granted the honour to 14 British units.[21] Governor General’s Order 193/26 made awards to Indian Army Corps.[22] Governor General’s Order 1409/26 made awards to Indian States Forces[22] and finally a further Governor General’s Order in 1927 made awards to a further three Ghurka regiments.[22] Pursuant to Army Order 97/24:[23] • 1st King’s Dragoon Guards • 1st/4th The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) • 2nd Battalion, The King’s Regiment (Liverpool) • 2nd Battalion, The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s) • 1st Battalion, The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment


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9th Jat Regiment 10th Baluch Regiment 11th Sikh Regiment 12th Frontier Force Regiment 13th Frontier Force Rifles 14th Punjab Regiment 16th Punjab Regiment 17th Dogra Regiment 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles 19th Hyderabad Regiment 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles) • 4th Prince of Wales’s Own Gurkha Rifles • 7th Gurkha Rifles • 8th Gurkha Rifles • 9th Gurkha Rifles • 10th Gurkha Rifles Pursuant to Governor General’s Order 1409/ 26:[23] • Patiala (Rajindra) Lancers • Alwar Lancers • Bhopal (Victoria) Lancers • No 1 Kashmir Mountain Battery • No 2 Kashmir Mountain Battery • Faridkot Sappers • Sirmoor Sappers • Tehri-Garhwal Sappers • Malerkotla Sappers • Jind Infantry • Nabha Infantry • 1st Patiala Infantry • 1st Kashmir Infantry • 3rd Gwalior Infantry • Kapurthala Infantry (Jagatjit Regiment • Bharatpur Transport Corps • Gwalior Transport Corps • Holkar’s Transport Corps (Indore) Pursuant to Governor General’s Order 1927:[23] • 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles • 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force) • 6th Gurkha Rifles Many of these units did not exist at the time of the war but were formed as part of the reorganisation of the Indian Army in 1922, however, the decision was made to award the battle honour to the successor units of those involved in the war.[22] Additionally, it should be noted that the honour was not awarded to regiments that had been disbanded,[22] e.g. 11th Gurkha Rifles, and that not all units that took part in the war were awarded the battle honour, e.g. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment. • • • • • • • • • • • •

Third Anglo-Afghan War

See also
• • • • • • • Invasions of Afghanistan European influence in Afghanistan First Anglo-Afghan War Second Anglo-Afghan War British military history North-West Frontier (military history) Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Barthorp 2002, p. 157. Barthorp 2002. ^ Sidebotham 1919. Wilkinson-Latham & McBride 1977, p. 22. [5] ^ Barthorp 2002, p. 149. [6] Wilkinson-Latham & McBride 1977, p. 23. [7] Barthorp 2002, p. 149; Wilkinson-Latham & McBride 1977, p. 22. [8] Following a similar trend to the rising nationalism in Afghanistan, there had been a rising movement in India at the same time, culminating in riots and disorder in Punjab. On April 13, 1919, Dyer learnt that a large political meeting was taking place at the Jallianwala Bagh, an enclosed area in Amritsar. Fearing that the agitators would incite the crowd to violence and murder and that he had a very small force to protect the European community, Dyer marched his fifty men into the Bagh and opened fire, killing 379 and wounding a further 1,500. See Collett 2007. [9] Barthorp 2002, pp.150–151; see also Collett 2007. [10] ^ Barthorp 2002, p. 151. [11] Molesworth 1962, p. ? [12] Barthorp 2002, pp. 147–148. [13] ^ Barthorp 2002, p. 152. [14] The Indian Army sent over a million men overseas, and suffered approximately 115,000 casualties, see casualties.htm. [15] Infantry battalions, or cavalry regiments [16] Wilkinson-Latham & McBride 1977, p. 23; Barthorp 2002, p. 152. [17] Barthorp 2002, pp. 167–168. [18] Barthorp 2002, p. 157. [19] ^ Barthorp 2002, pp. 157–158. [20] Barthorp 2002, p. 179. [21] ^ Rodger 2003 p. 84. [1] [2] [3] [4]


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[22] ^ Rodger 2003 p. 88. [23] ^ Rodger 2003 p. 208.

Third Anglo-Afghan War
Campaign in Waziristan 1919–1920, The History Press. ISBN 1-86227-403-7. • Rodger, Alexander (2003). Battle Honours of the British Empire and Commonwealth Land Forces 1662–1991. Marlborough, Wiltshire: The Crowood Press. ISBN 1 86126 637 5. • Sidebotham, Herbert. (1919). ’The Third Afghan War’. New Statesman. 16 August 1919. Retrieved 17 January 2009 from: 200607170060. • Wilkinson-Latham, Robert & McBride, Angus. (1977). North-West Frontier 1837–1947, Men-at-Arms Series # 72. Osprey Publishing. London. ISBN 0-85045-275-9.

• Barthorp, Michael. (2002). Afghan Wars and the North-West Frontier 1839–1947. Cassell. London. ISBN 0-304-36294-8. • Collet, Nigel. (2007). The Butcher of Amritsar, Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 1-85285-575-4. • Cook, Hugh. (1987). The Battle Honours of the British and Indian Armies, 1662–1982. Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-082-7. • General Staff Branch, Army Headquarters, India. (1926). The Third Afghan War 1919 Official Account. Reprinted in 2004 by Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84342-799-5. • Molesworth, George. (1962). Afghanistan 1919. Asia Publishing House. • Robson, Brian. (2007). Crisis on the Frontier: The Third Afghan War and the

External links
• Regiments of the Commonwealth & British Empire • First World War Casualty Figures

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