By Tom Ozimek
Citing reports that advanced U.S.-made firearms have ended up in the possession of the Hamas terror group in Gaza, several House Oversight Committee Republicans are demanding answers from the Pentagon about what’s being done to make sure American-made weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands.
“The Committee has seen reports that U.S.-manufactured weapons are being redistributed and resold in secondary markets to terrorist organizations, including Hamas,” wrote House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in an Oct. 23 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Mr. Comer and Ms. Greene cited a series of media reports indicating that American-made weapons were being diverted and ending up in the hands of terrorists.
One source of these U.S.-made weapons is reportedly the roughly $7 billion stockpile left behind in the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Another is related to the arms the United States is providing to Ukraine amid its war with Russia but that are being diverted to the Middle East by various actors, including gun-smuggling criminal groups.
“The potential possession of U.S. weapons by terrorists is alarming in light of the terrorist group’s recent horrific attack on Israel,” the pair of lawmakers wrote, referring to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas operatives that killed around 1,500 Israelis, mostly civilians—many of them in barbaric fashion.
In their letter, they demanded a staff briefing from the Pentagon by the end of October on what procedures the DOD has in place “for preventing, addressing, and mitigating weapon diversion abroad.”
The DOD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
‘Arsenal of Anarchy’
In their letter, Mr. Comer and Ms. Greene cited a number of media reports indicating that American-made weapons were ending up in the hands of those who may wish to use them to harm the United States and its allies.
One of these is a June 15 report by Newsweek that cites a high-ranking Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander as saying that the Israeli military was concerned that U.S.-made weapons provided to Ukraine were being diverted and ending up in the hands of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.
“We are very worried that some of these capabilities are going to fall to Hezbollah and Hamas’ hands,” the IDF commander told the publication.
Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted in February 2022, the United States has sent over $46 billion in military assistance to Kyiv, sparking worries that some of that massive flow of arms was being diverted and ending up in other regions.
While a report in March from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) found that “there is currently no substantial outflow of weapons from the Ukrainian conflict zone,” it warned of the prospect of serious proliferation.
The report’s authors warned in a statement about the existence of a threat that, when the war ends, “Ukraine’s battlefields could and will become the new arsenal of anarchy, arming everyone from insurgents in Africa to gangsters in the streets of Europe.”
While it’s impossible to tell without further investigation where they’re coming from, it seems some U.S.-made weapons are finding their way to Gaza and into the hands of Hamas.
In their letter, the GOP lawmakers said that “recently released photos show Hamas terrorists allegedly holding what appear to be H4A1 Carbines,” a type of weapon that they point out was specially designed for U.S. Special Operations Forces.
“This would not be the first time our military service members and allies have been targeted by terrorist organizations misappropriating American-made weapons,” the lawmakers wrote, citing the massive $7 billion arsenal that ended up in the hands of the Taliban.
Taliban Seize $7 Billion Worth of US Weapons and Equipment
After U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, they left behind billions of dollars of American-made weapons and equipment.
A Pentagon watchdog reported in August 2022 that “U.S.-funded equipment valued at $7.12 billion was in the inventory of the former Afghan government when it collapsed, much of which has since been seized by the Taliban.”
The report, which was confirmed by the DOD, indicated that the equipment that had fallen into Taliban hands included military aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons, and other military equipment.
The items that ended up in Taliban hands included large equipment like Black Hawk helicopters and Humvees, as well as small but sophisticated arms like M16 assault rifles and M4 carbines.
“We have already seen Taliban fighters armed with U.S.-made weapons they seized from the Afghan forces. This poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters in an email last year.
Lt. Col. Emron Musavi, an Indian army spokesperson, told CNBC in an email last year that weapons left behind by U.S. forces during the withdrawal from Afghanistan were making their way into other conflict zones, including in India-controlled Kashmir, which some terror groups are trying to annex for Pakistan.
“It can be safely assumed that they have access to the weapons left behind,” he told the outlet, amid reports that operatives from Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, two Pakistan-based groups designated by the United States as terrorist organizations, had been spotted with U.S.-made arms like M4s and M16s.
Military vehicles transferred by the U.S. to the Afghan National Army in February 2021. (Afghanistan Ministry of Defense/via Reuters)
Demands for Oversight
The letter from Mr. Comer and Ms. Greene is not the first time Republicans have pressed the Pentagon on U.S.-made weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, several Republican senators demanded the DOD provide full accounting over the weapons and equipment that were captured by the Taliban.
“As we watched the images coming out of Afghanistan as the Taliban retook the country, we were horrified to see U.S. equipment—including UH-60 Black Hawks—in the hands of the Taliban,” Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and two dozen other senators wrote to Mr. Austin.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the Republicans added.
“Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Defense prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”