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Libya's small arms: A fuller picture

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COMMENTS

20 June 2011 16:41

Stephanie Koorey is an Adjunct Research Associate at Monash University.

Nic Jenzen-Jones' response to my article adds a number of useful pieces to the Libyan small arms puzzle. He is quite correct that my piece is a first blush of trying to find out where the rebel arms are coming from, and his technical proficiency in identifying the weapon in question as an AK 103 is welcome.

However, he has mistaken several points. First, I did not assert the weapons came from Latin America or India. This is indeed one of the popular myths of small arms proliferation – that small arms and light weapons swill around the globe willy-nilly, evading all border controls and territorial integrity. I do not subscribe to this myth – in fact, I would suggest many if not most small arms used in contemporary conflicts by non-state combatants comes from within the country through the leakages and battle-captures that I mention. 

And Sam correctly pointed to the extensive craft-production of weaponry being used by the Libyan rebels. Again, this is the less sexy side of small arms proliferation, but it is more common than acknowledged. Lords of War using false shipping manifests for planeloads of Soviet weaponry are the basis of Hollywood movies, and do not occur as much as one might be led to believe. 

Second, I relied on highly regarded secondary source material from the Small Arms Survey and cross-checked it with Jane's. Neither has the AK 103 in Libya's inventory. The photograph Nic points to, of pro-Qadhafi forces with an AK 103, does however point to the opposite, and I agree it is possible the big Russian deal with Libya could have involved sending samples which are now being used by both sides in Libya. 

If AK 103s are also used by Chechen rebels, FARC, and Hezbollah – points which will need corroborating — this is still a small number of non-state combatants who have the AK 103.

I do agree that the appearance of AK 103s is unlikely to be a game changer for the Libya conflict. But perhaps the more challenging part of the small arms story is how, in the normalisation of the Libyan state, the Libyan rebels – and any other armed non-state actor in Libya – will ultimately be disarmed. Perhaps Nic Jenzen-Jones, with the advantage he has in working for private military companies, has an opinion?

Photo by Flickr user B.R.Q.

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