Resources: research on Countering Violent Extremism in Australia

Kevin Dunn, Rosalie Atie, Virginia Mapedzahama, Mehmet Ozalp and Adem F. Aydogan, The Resilience and Ordinariness of Australian Muslims: Attitudes and experiences of Muslims Report, Western Sydney University and Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia, November 2015.

Shandon Harris-Hogan, Kate Barrelle, and Andrew Zammit “What is countering violent extremism? Exploring CVE policy and practice in Australia“, Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, published online 5 November 2015 (gated).

Anne Aly and Kosta Lucas, “Countering Online Violent Extremism in Australia: Research and Preliminary Findings” in Countering Violent Extremism: Developing an Evidence-Base for Policy and Practice, Hedayah and Curtin University, September 2015, scroll to page 81.

Many authors, “Special Issue: Countering Violent Extremism: Reorienting the Field“, Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2015 (gated).

Andrew Zammit, Australian Foreign Fighters: Risks and Responses, Lowy Institute for International Policy, 16 April 2015.

Cat Barker, Australian Government Measures to Counter Violent Extremism: a Quick Guide, Australian Parliamentary Library, 10 February 2015.

Kevin Mark Dunn, Rosalie Atie, Michael Kennedy, Jan A. Ali, John O’Reilly and Lindsay Rogerson, “Can you use Community Policing for Counter Terrorism? Evidence from NSW, Australia“, Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, online version published 12 March 2015 (gated).

Kristina Murphy, Adrian Cherney, and Julie Barkworth, Avoiding Community Backlash in the Fight Against Terrorism: Research Report. Australian Research Council (Grant No. DP130100392) March 2015 (gated).

Michele Grossman, “Disenchantments: Counterterror Narratives and Conviviality,” Critical Studies on Terrorism, Volume 7, Issue 3, 2014 (gated).

Roslyn Richardson, Fighting Fire with Fire: Target Audience Responses to Online Anti-Violence Campaigns, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 4 June 2014.

Shahram Akbarzadeh, “Investing in Mentoring and Educational Initiatives: The Limits of De-Radicalisation Programmes in Australia“, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Volume 33, Issue 4, 2013.

Michele Grossman and Hussein Tahiri, Community and Radicalisation: An Examination of Perceptions, Ideas, Beliefs and Solutions Throughout Australia, Victoria Police with Victoria University, September 2013.

Robyn Broadbent, “Using Grass Roots Community Programs as an Anti-Extremism Strategy“, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, Volume 53, Issue 2, July 2013 (gated).

Anne Aly, “The Policy Response to Home-Grown Terrorism: Reconceptualising Prevent and Resilience as Collective Resistance“, Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, Volume 8, Issue 1, 2013.

Basia Spalek and Alia Imtoual, “Muslim Communities and Counter-Terror Responses: “Hard” Approaches to Community Engagement in the UK and Australia“, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Volume 27, Issue 2, 2007 (gated).


Update 1: Added the Australian Journal of Adult Learning, Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression and the Western Sydney University articles on 8 december 2015.

Resources: Ukraine’s foreign fighters

Most discussions of foreign fighters (including on this blog) focus on Sunni Muslims joining ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups to Syria and Iraq. But there are other interesting foreign fighter flows worthy of research attention. Phillip Smyth produced this excellent report on Shia Muslims joining Iranian-backed militias in Shia and Iraq. There are also people, often Westerners, travelling to join Kurdish groups in the region fighting against ISIS.

The Ukrainian conflict has also attracted foreign fighters. Since the war began in early-to-mid 2014, small numbers of foreigners have travelled to join extreme-right militias on both sides. This is not an issue I’ve been following much at all, so this post provides a brief collection of links for anyone else interested in it.

Media articles:

Ukraine: Far-Right Fighters from Europe Fight for Ukraine“, Eurasianet, 6 August 2014.

Ukraine War Pulls in Foreign Fighters“, BBC 1 September 2014.

Is Europe Overlooking the Far-Right ‘Foreign Fighter’ Issue in Ukraine?“, Huffington Post, 23 January 2015.


Ukraine’s Far-Right Forces“, Hate Speech International, 3 February 2015.

Neither ‘NATO’s Foreign Legion’ Nor the ‘Donbass International Brigades:’ (Where Are All the) Foreign Fighters in Ukraine?“, PISM Policy Papers, 30 March 2015.

Resources: Australia’s new national security legislation reforms

Another quick post. Here are some resources for the impending reforms to national security legislation.


1. The Parliamentary page for the first set of reforms, National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, is here. There will reportedly be a second set of reforms a few months later.

The key documents on that page are the bill itself and the explanatory memorandum.


2. Some commentary on the bill:

Bernard Keane, “Brandis’ national security bill a concern for whistleblowers, journalists“, Crikey, 17 July 2014 (currently paywalled).

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, “National security bill gives ASIO more powers and a tighter gag“, The Conversation, 17 July 2014.

Cameron Stewart, “Security laws must be updated“, The Australian, 19 July 2014.


3. Five reports recommending national security legislation reform (the current bill is based heavily on the Joint Committee report, but the second set of reforms will apparently be partly based on the Independent Monitor reports and presumably the COAG one too):

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor – annual report 28th March 2014
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)
18 June 2014

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor – declassified annual report 20th December 2012
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)
14 May 2013

Council of Australian Governments review of counter-terrorism legislation
Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
14 May 2013

Report of the inquiry into potential reforms of Australia’s national security legislation
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS)
24 June 2013

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor – annual report 7th November 2013
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)
12 December 2013


4. On Friday the Parliamentary Library published two lists of useful web links, one on national security and the other on crime and law enforcement.

Resources: five new reports on al-Qaeda, syria, jihadism and foreign fighters

Here are five think-tank reports on al-Qaeda, Syria, jihadism and foreign fighters that have come out in the past month.

I have not read any of them in full yet, but have read sections of the RAND and Brookings reports and definitely recommend them. The RAND one contains extremely useful data, regardless of questions about the media coverage of it, and gives a valuable historic overview of al-Qaeda and like-minded groups.

I’m looking forward to reading the foreign fighter reports, particularly as we’re passing the point where the threat from the Syrian foreign fighter mobilisation can be considered hypothetical. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue usually produces excellent reports, so I expect this one will be good. However I’m less keen on Quilliam, and am unfamiliar with the Soufan Group.

All these reports are free and in PDF format.


A Persistent Threat: The Evolution of al Qa’ida and Other Salafi Jihadists
4 June 2014

Foreign Fighters in Syria
The Soufan Group
2 June 2014

Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria’s Military Landscape
Brookings Doha Centre
19 May 2014

Jihad Trending: A Comprehensive Analysis of Online Extremism and How to Counter it
Quilliam Foundation
12 May 2014

Foreign Fighters, the Challenge of Counter-Narratives
Institute for Strategic Dialogue
10 May 2014

Resources: information on Australia’s continuing detention of refugees who fail ASIO assessments

Last week the Federal Government, with the Opposition’s full support, passed legislation to keep around 50 refugees detained indefinitely.

These are people who have been found to legitimate refugees, but are still locked up for possibly the rest of their lives, because of adverse security assessments from ASIO. The legislation overrides a 2012 High Court ruling.

I’ve argued before that the security concerns could be well-founded, but that indefinite detention is unnecessary and unjustified. This post provides some links to resources for others opposed to this policy:


Immigration detainees with adverse security assessments v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Citizenship): Report into arbitrary detention and the best interests of the child
Australian Human Rights Commission
May 2013

Finds that the policy amounts to arbitrary detention, and that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) took no effort to explore whether detention was necessary for particular individuals, or whether less restrictive measures could address the security concerns.


Tell Me About: Refugees with Adverse Security Assessments
Australian Human Rights Commission
May 2013

Brief backgrounder explaining how the laws work and the human rights problems they raise.


Australia’s detention of 46 refugees ‘cruel and degrading,’ UN rights experts find
United Nations Human Rights Committee
August 2013

Press release containing links to two UN reports on this issue, which find Australia responsible for over 150 human rights violations.


Inquiry into the attendance of legal representatives at ASIO interviews, and related matters
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
January 2014

Casts doubt on ASIO’s conduct when interviewing refugees for security assessments. For example:

I found that the approach taken by ASIO officers (as generally described by officers that I interviewed) currently tends to a default of strongly discouraging the attendance of lawyers. I do not believe that this is consistent with ASIO’s stated internal guidance and may not be consistent with the legal requirements……

From all of the information provided to me, I believe that ASIO has had an apparent practice of discouraging the attendance of lawyers at interviews, which seems inconsistent with the intent of its internal guidance.


Factsheet: Refugees with an adverse security assessment by ASIO
Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
February 2014

Another backgrounder, but more up to date than the Australian Human Rights Commission one.


This is still breaking people: update on human rights violations at Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea
Amnesty International
May 2014

This last resource doesn’t involve the ASIO security assessments at all. A couple of years ago, these 50-odd adversely-assessed refugees were the only people Australia was detaining indefinitely. Then in 2013 the Gillard government introduced “No Advantage”, and then we saw Rudd’s “PNG Solution”, followed by Abbott’s “Operation Sovereign Borders”. Now, Australia is in effect holding thousands of asylum seekers in indefinite detention (as their refugee claims are not being assessed).  This report outlines allegations of abuse in one of the detention centres, and the lack of response from Papua New Guinea or Australia.

Resources: four recent research reports on al-Qaeda

Following the massacre in Nairobi there’s been a spate of commentary about whether al-Qaeda has become stronger or weaker.

However, there’s little common agreement among commentators on what al-Qaeda is, which of its various affiliates and associated organisations should also be termed “al-Qaeda”, and what criteria should be used to assess strength or weakness.

You can be more informed by reading the following four think-tank reports, which all came out in the past month. They cover very similar territory to each other, but take differing approaches.


Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assessment
Bipartisan policy Center
9 September 2013

The al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy
American Enterprise Institute
10 September 2013

A New Index to Assess the Effectiveness of al Qaeda
Quilliam Foundation
12 September 2013

Al-Qaeda’s Global Footprint: An Assessment of al-Qaeda’s Strength Today
Henry Jackson Society
27 September 2013


Enjoy. Meanwhile, it doesn’t look like I’ll be returning to regular blogging soon.

Resources: Australia’s role in Afghanistan updated

The Australian government recently announced that it will withdraw the bulk of its military force in Afghanistan before the end of year.

For those interested in what the Australian Defence Force has been doing in Afghanistan and the context it operated in, here is an updated version of an older post of research resources on the topic.

The original post was motivated by our media’s unfortunate lack of in-depth discussion of this conflict, which partly result from the Department of Defence’s restrictive media policies.

Aside from tweaking the writing and fixing dead links, the main updates include:

  1. Replacing the older Parliamentary Library report with the more recent one.
  2. Adding a report from the Feinstein Centre.
  3. In the “further sources” section, adding a report from Save the Children report and several reports recommended by Tom Hyland.
  4. Removing the discussion of the TLO report controversy (still available at the older post).

This list is in two sections. For the sources in the “key sources” section, I have provided descriptions and some personal thoughts. The “further sources” section contains reports I have either not read or not thought worth including in the first section. I am not an Afghanistan specialist or a military specialist, so some of the “further sources” may be just as valuable as the “key sources”. All the key sources are open-access and in pdf format.

All the reports focus on Uruzgan province (the ADF’s main theatre of operations in the country) or on Australia’s role more broadly. None focus on the Afghan war in general (if you want that, see this mammoth bibliography), they have been chosen specifically for their relevance to Australian involvement.


Key sources:

Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan: revised facts and figures
Nicole Brangwin, Marty Harris, Ravi Tomar and David Watt
Parliamentary Library
September 2012

This paper is what it sounds like. It contains key data on Australia’s contribution, not just from Defence but also the other government departments such as DFAT and AusAID. The paper presents funding figures, key dates, government statements and other information, along with many links for further research. Originally produced to help politicians prepare for the October 2010 Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, it has been thoroughly updated since.

It is a useful starting point for anyone writing on this topic.


Winning hearts and minds in Uruzgan province
Paul Fishstein
Feinstein International Center
August 2012

This paper presents the results of a large-scale study on the effectiveness of aid projects in promoting security. This paper focuses on Uruzgan, which was one of five Afghan provinces covered in the larger study. The researchers interviewed over 120 people in Uruzgan, both Afghans and internationals.

The results are not comforting. The paper finds “widespread negative perceptions of aid projects” as a result of aid becoming entangled in local power politics. Local powerbrokers, such as Jan Mohammad Khan and Matiullah Khan (discussed more in reports below) not only manipulated aid to their advantage, but also manipulated Western military forces. The report argues that they “pursued personal agendas and vendettas which they ‘sold’ to the international forces as pursuit of high value targets and Taliban.”

The paper also examined the different approaches of the three international military forces in Uruzgan (Dutch, American and Australian) and found that “dissatisfaction was largely directed at the Australians.”


Two Afghan views of Australia from Uruzgan
Omaid Khpalwak and Governor Mohammed Shirzad
Lowy Institute for International Policy
November 2011

The first half of this paper consists of notes taken by Afghan journalist Omaid Khpalwak, who was sadly killed by US forces on July 2011, after being mistaken for an insurgent.

He interviewed many locals about what they thought of the Australian presence in Uruzgan, with reactions ranging from firm support to strong criticism. The criticisms are mostly for their support of Matiullah Khan, but also for night-raids and civilian casualties.

The second half is an interview with Uruzgan Governor Mohammed Shirzad, conducted by Susan Schmeidl and Hekmatullah Aazamy. Shirzad is supportive of the ADF presence and confident of improvements in the security situation, though also critical about civilian casualties. He makes some suggestions regarding operations and development projects.

This paper differs from the others here by being brief, and light on details, but is important for showing the diversity of Afghan views on the ADF’s role.


Counterinsurgency in Uruzgan 2009
Colonel Peter Connolly
Land Warfare Studies Centre, Australian Army
August 2011

This paper examines Australian operations in Uruzgan in the second half of 2009, and is written by one of the commanders involved. It covers the role of the Second Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force in providing security for the elections and training the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army, in the context of an active “fighting season.”

The detailed and acronym-laden text is aimed at a military audience, but is otherwise readable and includes personal accounts of Peter Connolly’s service. It is valuable for covering the task force’s many adaptations in the six-month period. It also shows the difficult decisions ADF commanders have to make in operations, which is not easily conveyed in media coverage.


In it for the long haul? Delivering Australian aid to Afghanistan
Phil Sparrow
Australian Council for International Development
March 2011

If there has been little in-depth media coverage of the ADF’s role, there has been almost none of the role played by AusAID and various NGOs. That makes this paper on Australia’s aid programs in Afghanistan – government and non-government – particularly valuable.

Like the Parliamentary Library report above, this paper has a strong focus on facts and figures, and runs through the role of various government departments and NGOs. However, it also makes a strong analytic contribution. It discusses successes and failures and is particularly critical of aid programs being incorporated into counter-insurgency, instead of being needs-driven. It argues that this militarisation of aid undermines its purpose, which harms the stabilisation effort as a whole.


The man who would be King: challenges to strengthening governance in Uruzgan
Susan Schmeidl
Netherlands Institute of International Relations
November 2010

This paper and the next give detailed accounts of Uruzgan politics post-2001. They are indispensable for understanding the context the ADF operates in, and the impact the ISAF forces overall may be having on the local population. It is not a simple matter of the foreign forces being either occupiers or protectors. Rather, foreign forces are operating in an area with complex pre-existing power-structures, and their interaction with these power-structures will shape the war’s outcome.

This paper focuses on the failure to create effective governance in Uruzgan. It argues that this has allowed local strongmen to hold government positions while actually undermining the state, which the Taliban capitalise on for their own ends. One example discussed is again Matiullah Khan, who is now police chief of Uruzgan. Khan was regardedby Australia as a valuable ally, but by the Ducth as a dangerous warlord who should be kept at arm’s length. He has proven periodically controversial in the media, particularly after it was revealed that some of his fighters were taken to Australia for training.

The paper is a highly detailed account of the key actors in Uruzgan (not just Khan but many others), demonstrates how power functions in the province, and ends with recommendations for improving governance.


The battle for Afghanistan: Zabul and Uruzgan
Martine van Bijlert
New America Foundation
September 2010

This paper examines the Taliban’s resurgence in Uruzgan and the neighbouring province of Zabul. It attributes the insurgency’s strength to networks of fighters dating back to the Soviet occupation, neglect by the central government, and supporters based in Pakistan. Similar to Schmeidl’s report, it also argues that Karzai-era strongmen (who have become de facto ISAF allies) alienated particular communities who have then turned to the Taliban. In other words, it argues that much of the insurgency was avoidable.

While the previous paper was a lengthy, detailed analysis of power relations in Uruzgan, this more concise paper shows specifically how those dynamics affect the insurgency. It is based on solid research (including 300 interviews) and is possibly the best short-but-detailed account of insurgency in Uruzgan available.

I strongly recommend it.


Further sources:

Access restricted: a review of remote monitoring practices in Uruzgan province
Save the Children Australia
November 2012

Uruzgan: 18 months after the Dutch/Australian leadership handover
The Liaison Office
April 2012

Death of an Uruzgan journalist: command errors and ‘collateral damage’
Afghanistan Analysts’ Network
25 April 2012
(This report is on the death of Omaid Khpulwak, who was described as one of the most promising Afghan journalists of his generation and whose work featured in the above-mentioned Lowy report)

Backgrounder: Karzai appoints four provincial governors
Institute for the Study of War
23 April 2012
(This 3-page backgrounder provides some information on Matiullah Khan)

3D ‘The next generation’. Lessons learned from Uruzgan for future operations
Netherlands Institute of International Relations
December 2011

Mission Uruzgan: collaborating in multiple coalitions for Afghanistan
Amsterdam University Press
June 2012

The Australian Army after Afghanistan
Security Challenges Journal
Winter 2011

Exiting Afghanistan: challenges to transition
Australian Strategic Policy Institute
March 2011

The Dutch engagement in Uruzgan
The Liaison Office
May 2010

Australia in Afghanistan: quick guide
The Nautilus Institute
October 2010

Other reports and articles relevant to Australia’s role in Afghanistan can be found on the websites of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network, the Australian Army Journal and The Liaison Office.