Concerns that American weapons and tax dollars are increasingly going to groups such as the Taliban and Hamas are coming under increasing scrutiny.
Debate over whether the U.S. should send funds to Hamas-controlled Gaza has re-sparked the issue, with foreign aid to the Middle East and weapons left behind in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. troops, front and center in the conversation.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has been among the most outspoken opponents of funding for Gaza, saying that aid will fall into the hands of the terrorist group, Hamas, which kicked off a war with Israel when it killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took hundreds of hostages, including Americans.
Biden announced $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza last month.
“If we send aid into Gaza, it is almost guaranteed the money will fall into terrorists’ hands,” Blackburn wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We must focus first on eradicating Hamas to help the Palestinian people.”
Blackburn pointed to a new document from the federal watchdog for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees foreign aid. That watchdog already raised the alarm earlier this month about the risk of this funding falling into the hands of terrorists.
The USAID Office of Inspector General released a “situational alert” saying it has “identified this area as high-risk for potential diversion and misuse of U.S.-funded assistance.”
“It is USAID OIG’s investigative priority to ensure that assistance does not fall into the hands of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) including, but not limited to, Hamas,” the federal watchdog said.
As The Center Square previously reported, USAID stresses that it vets its partners thoroughly. A USAID spokesperson told The Center Square that helping those affected by the war between Israel and Hamas is critical and insisted that U.S. assistance for Gaza residents does not go to or through Hamas.
A group of House Republicans sent a letter last month to USAID raising concerns, saying USAID has reduced aid to this area in recent years because of these very concerns about funds making its way into Hamas’ hands.
The House Oversight Committee has also raised concerns about American military weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
“The Committee is concerned by reports that Hamas and other terrorist organizations may have obtained American-made weapons,” House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said in a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
They have opened a Congressional inquiry into the matter.
“Recently released photos show Hamas terrorists allegedly holding what appear to be M4A1 Carbines, which were 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 letter said.
President Joe Biden withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021, leaving behind troves of equipment that was taken by the Taliban as it took over the nation. The Taliban could keep or sell that equipment to nefarious actors. U.S. military officials have said many of these weapons were destroyed.
A report released last month from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the federal watchdog for Afghanistan spending, said the Taliban is siphoning funds off funds from the foreign aid sent to Afghanistan.
The SIGAR report said that “the Taliban benefit from U.S. education funding through the establishment of fraudulent NGOs to receive donor assistance, and by infiltrating and extorting existing Afghan NGOs delivering educational assistance.”
“For example, an NGO official told us the Taliban are targeting and extorting Afghans who receive monetary support from U.S.-funded education programs under the guise of taxation. In another example, NGO officials told SIGAR that the Taliban are coercing NGOs to hire Taliban supporters or purchase goods from Taliban-owned companies,” the report adds.
Federal aid in the region is no small amount of money, and many Democratic lawmakers are calling for more funds to be sent to Gaza for humanitarian aid. According to Open the Books, a spending watchdog group, the Biden administration has sent $21 billion to the Middle East so far.
“Seventeen Middle Eastern countries, plus Egypt, received $20.8 billion in U.S. foreign aid during the Biden administration in fiscal years 2021-2023, according to U.S. government disclosures,” the group said. “Israel received $6.615 billion. Jordan and Yemen received the next highest funding levels, with $3.8 and $3.2 billion, respectively.”
President Joe Biden warned against the misuse of federal funds in a speech on Oct. 18.
“If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people and it will end,” Biden said in his speech. “As a practical matter, it will – it will stop the international community from being able to provide this aid.”