Conflict Armament Resolution | Sourcing Weaponry

Approx read: 2 mins

Conflict Armament Resolution investigates ammunition and weapons found in battle zones to find out where they come from.

Shot! – Whose bullet was that anyway?

Conflict Armament Resolution (CAR) has a team of investigators that have been asking this question in many war-torn areas, most recently in towns and villages recently captured from IS in Iraq. While spent munitions left behind from IS sites are examined for markings, the empty boxes or cases are the most useful since they carry the manufacturer’s ID as well as serial and batch numbers.

Established in 2011, CAR generates unique evidence on weapon supplies into armed conflicts to inform and support effective weapon management and control. CAR also manages iTrace – a European Union-funded project, which provides policy makers with dynamic, quantified data on transfers of diverted conventional weapons, ammunition, and related material.

While its bad luck to be wounded in a conflict zone far, far away its surely worse to discover that the bullet fired by insurgent, terrorist or guerrilla was sourced from your own nation’s government and paid for by your taxes. So while this may sound incredulous, it’s becoming increasingly common and cause of concern in many conflict zones around the world.


Where are the bad guys getting all their weapons from?

Although the world of arms dealing is a secretive one, the CAR team in Iraq has found evidence on the source of IS ammunition. When IS first made its military rise, most of its arms and ammunition were captured on the battlefield from defeated or retreating Iraqi and Syrian forces. However, from the start of 2016, CAR began to document another significant source. Ammunition boxes were turning up that could be traced back to factories in Eastern Europe. CAR approached the manufacturing states to request information on who bought the material recorded.

It emerged that the material had been legally sold to the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia and then shipped through Turkey. The destination was northern Syria, to support the opposition groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad. (The US and Saudi Arabia both back these local groups) So while the intention was never to let the ammunition fall into enemy hands, somewhere along the way it was diverted and was then used against the US-backed Iraqi forces in Tikrit, Ramadi, Falluja and now Mosul.

Speaking to the BBC, a CAR representative commented that the speed with which IS was getting this material was startling. In some instances it took only two months after leaving the factory. ‘If you supply weapons and ammunition not only to non-state actors but to non-state actors in a very complex interlocked conflict, then the risk of diversion is very, very high,’ he said.


An avid international traveller, surfer lover of the oceans, writer and researcher.