Our new partners at CIMSEC

We’re really pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). The Center is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in the US. It brings together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain.

This partnership allows both our organisations to foster discussion and interaction between scholars, military officers and the general public in both our countries on areas of mutual security interest.

We encourage you to visit their excellent blog NextWar which will, from time to time, feature cross posts from Security Scholar and other partner blogs.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

Indonesia series post #5: Like a Boss


Indonesian Army Sergeant Poltak Siahaan is chaired by his team members to receive the trophy for Champion Shot International from Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, at this year’s Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM).

AASAM is open to all ADF members and also attracts champions from 16 international defence forces.

Image by Sergeant John Waddell, courtesy of Department of Defence.

Photo of the Day: Pacific Partnership 2012


This kitten was photographed during a Pacific Partnership 2012 veterinary project in the town of San Juan in Samar province, Philippines.

Pacific Partnership is a US Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic aid mission designed to strengthen regional relations and develop disaster response capabilities, involving military and NGO personnel.

The Australian Defence Force has been involved since 2006, with 41 personnel assigned this year from 23 May to 11 August to deliver engineering and medical aid to Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Image by Camelia Montoy, courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

All of the Teams! On CST, FET and Lioness Teams

A quick note on female teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is an excellent interview with a female member of a US Cultural Support Team (CST) and Special Forces enabler who deployed to Afghanistan. It sheds light on women in combat from first-hand experiences, but tells us very little about CSTs.


At present there is only limited publicly available information of CSTs’ function and deployment conditions. Objective analysis of their challenges or efficacy is scarce.

There has been however an increase in academic research into Female Engagement Teams (FETs). When I wrote this piece in February last year, there was little analytical material, just media releases and news coverage.

In supplement to my piece earlier this week on research and women in combat, here are some articles for those interested in FETs:

  • Stephanie K. Erwin, ‘The Veil of Kevlar: An Analysis of the Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, March 2012, available here.
  • Keally McBride, Annick T. R. Wibben, ‘The Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan’, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Summer 2012, see here.
  • Thomas W. Moore et al, ‘Opinion Dynamics in Gendered Social Networks: An Examination of Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, December 2011, PDF here.

Like FETs, Lioness Teams were established to engage the population, particularly women and children, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are news stories and even a movie about their work, but only a few academic articles:

  • Major Sheila S. McNulty, ‘Myth Busted: Women are Serving in Ground Combat Positions’, Air Force Law Review, July 2011, PDF here.
  • Major Karen J. Dill, ‘Removing the Rose Colored Glasses: Exploring Modern Security Environment’s Effect on the Army Assignment Policy for Women’, US Army Command and General Staff College thesis, 2009, PDF here.

McNulty’s chapter documents the history of the US Army’s Lioness Team program and the development of the Marine Corps equivalent, as well as discussing FETs in Afghanistan. Dill’s thesis analyses the documentary ‘Team Lioness’ to demonstrate how the understanding of women’s roles in the military have evolved.

In summary, this is still a developing area of academic literature, and I’m sure there are some references I’ve missed, so feel free to supplement this with suggestions. Happy reading!

Image by US Army SSG Russell Lee Klikam, courtesy of Flickr user USAJFKSWCS.

Photo of the Day


This amazing mid-air shot of Australian Explosive Detection Dog, Matilda, was too good to pass up. Matilda is deployed to Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan, with her handler Sapper Adam Thomlinson as part of Mentoring Task Force 4 (MTF-4).

In 2010, then Minister for Defence, Senator Faulker, announced additional counter-IED initiatives, including $4.9 million to begin training additional dogs. The cost to maintain an EDD annually is $90,000.

Photo by Corporal Mark Doran, Department of Defence.

A year in security

What a year 2011 has been!

Kicking off with the Arab Spring, followed by the deaths (yes, deaths) of Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and Kim Jong-il, and ending with the withdrawal of the US from Iraq, 2011 was mind-blowing. Add to that the Eurozone crises, disasters like Fukushima, earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes. 2011 was the year of headlines.

But, in a year of big news, it’s easy to forget the small things. In this case, I’m talking about the first anniversary of this blog, Security Scholar.

Continue reading

Jumping The Gun: what does the AK-100 series really mean for Libya’s rebels?

By N.R. Jenzen-Jones
This post originally appeared on the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter.

Libyan Rebel with AK-103 (March 5th 2011)

Stephanie Koorey’s piece on Libyan weapon supplies falls short of investigating properly the origin of many of the small arms seen in Libyan rebels’ arsenals. The star of Koorey’s piece – an ‘AK-100 series’ rifle shown in this  Al Jazeera video clip – leads her to reasonably ask, ‘where are these from?’ Eastern Europe? South and Central Asia? Perhaps even South America? However, there exist possibilities closer to the conflict, and more to the story.

The gun in question is certainly an AK-103; the muzzle brake design and barrel length are different on the AK-102, AK-104, and AK-105, and the AK-101 and AK-74M are chambered for 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm, respectively, and feature correspondingly straighter magazines. The state-controlled Gafat Armament Engineering Complex in Ethiopia has been producing AK-103s for some time now as the ET-97/1 Automatic Rifle. Arms movement between the two countries has been well documented, though it is not extensive.

Another distinct possibility is that the rifles may well have come from within Libya itself.

We know the Libyan government planned to manufacture AK-103s under license, and it is likely that samples were sent over from Russia for assessment purposes. It is even possible that a pre-production run was manufactured within Libya. We’ve certainly seen pro-Qadhafi forces using the AK-103, which lends weight to this theory.

Koorey’s assertion that this “makes the Libyan rebels the first known non-state combatants to have AK-100s” is also untrue. There have been confirmed reports of non-state combatants using AK-100 series weapons in Chechnya (and probably Ingushetia), in Colombia (by FARC rebels, and likely by the ELN and cartels as well) and in other conflict zones. Private security contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan have made use of Bulgarian 100 series clones. I’d be very surprised if a few examples hadn’t made it into the hands of militants in these or other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, or in the Caucasus, India or the Balkans.

I have also heard personal accounts of AK-100 series rifles being sighted in the hands of Hezbollah fighters, which may well be connected to Iranian military use of AK-103s. Also, given that certain units in the Yemen Army use AK-104s, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a few examples turning up in the hands of Houthi militants or other groups in the region. Bearing in mind production first began in the 1990s, it is not surprising these weapons have been sighted around the world. The fact that countries like Venezuela and India have moved to produce these rifles under license relatively recently only serves to heighten the distribution of the AK-100 series.

So how will the presence of AK-103s affect the conflict in Libya? Almost unnoticeably; at this stage we have seen very limited stocks of the weapon. Even should the numbers of 100 series rifles increase, their acknowledged advantages over older AK-family weapons will have very little strategic impact, given the relatively low level of marksmanship training of the combatants involved. Unless the rebel forces can obtain significant numbers of them – and sufficient stockpiles of 7.62x39mm ammunition – we are not going to see this weapons system providing much of an advantage at all.

Image courtesy of The New York Times. Libyan Rebel with AK-103 (March 5th 2011).

Update 21/06/2011: Stephanie Koorey has a reply to this piece up here.  I think she may have missed a few of my points, but I intend to get in touch with her and compare thoughts on the small arms situation in Libya.

Update 16/09/2011: It appears the rifles were from Russia, after all. Details here

Update 31/10/2011: Close-up images of the receiver of one of the rifles shows Russian factory markings. Here