This article discusses the importance for armed groups of arms acquisition from government sources. It considers how arms transfers are treated by the “new war” and globalization literature, and how they focus on cross-border transfers at the expense of domestic procurement. Despite the attention given to the international arms trade, in reality it is by theft, ambush, and corruption that most rebel groups source weapons and ammunition. Evidence from conflicts around the world indicates a preference for this type of arms acquisition over foreign sources, in part because the importation of weapons requires money and sponsorship. Bringing together examples of conflicts where domestic procurement has been crucial, it highlights conditions that favor targeting government-sourced weapons, particularly during the early stages of a conflict. The article ends with a discussion of the policy implications of its findings.
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