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Top Republican promises investigation as US weapons fall into hands of Pakistani-linked militants

By Sarah May on
 February 1, 2023

In the wake of new reports suggesting that weaponry abandoned during the hasty 2021 American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has made its way into the hands of Pakistani-linked militants, Rep. Mike Waltz (FL-06) has promised to launch an investigation of the situation, as the Daily Mail reports.

In January, Waltz was named chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, and at the time of his appointment, he referenced his determination to focus on critical issues facing the U.S. military, including “new terrorist threats” that have emerged “in the aftermath of Afghanistan.”

Weaponry abandoned

As NBC News has noted, upwards of $7.1 billion worth of American-funded military equipment and weaponry fell into the hands of the Taliban after President Joe Biden made the decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. forces from the country.

Citing a Defense Department report from last year, the outlet noted that while over half of the aforementioned assets were ground vehicles, over 316,000 weapons as well as accessories and ammunition were also part of the trove left behind.

At the time of the withdrawal, Reuters reported on advancing Taliban insurgents taking full advantage of the newfound resources, “inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear, even military drones” and an American official speaking on condition of anonymity declaring, “Everything that hasn't been destroyed is the Taliban's now.”

The hazards posed by the situation did not go unnoticed, as Reuters noted, with current and past government officials expressing concerns that the materials could be “used to kill civilians, be seized by other militant groups such as Islamic State to attack U.S. interests in the region, or even potentially be handed over to adversaries including Russia and China.”

Militants seize opportunity

According to the NBC News report, those fears have come to fruition, with weapons abandoned by U.S. forces in Afghanistan now turning up in a different conflict entirely, this time in the South Asian region of Kashmir.

Officials in the region have informed the outlet that militants engaged in an annexation battle in Kashmir have been observed toting a number of American-made weapons and ammunition the likes of which have not historically been part of the decades-old hostilities.

Those authorities attribute their relatively recent appearance to an influx of weaponry that has flowed from Afghanistan in the months following the American military's controversial exit.

NBC News notes that the majority of the equipment seized to date has come from two Pakistani-connected militant groups that the American government has officially designated as terrorist organizations, namely, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) networks.

“They have access”

According to the NBC News report, both JeM and LeT had sent recruits to train and fight with Taliban insurgents in advance of the American withdrawal, a fact which helps explain why U.S-sourced weapons are now floating around the conflict in Kashmir.

Lt. Col Emron Musavi of the Indian army explained last year, “It can be safely assumed that [JeM and LeT] have access to the weapons left behind.”

Jonathan Schroden of the Center for Naval Analyses' Countering Threats and Challenges Program told NBC News that the American-made materials are not likely to be outcome determinative in the conflict in Kashmir.

However, in Schroden's estimation, they do represent for the Taliban a “reservoir” of capability that, “[w]hen combined with the [group's] need for money and extant smuggling networks...poses a substantial threat to regional actors for years to come.”

Waltz weighs in

Commenting on the reports from Kashmir, Walz – himself a former Green Beret – lamented the avoidable nature of the situation and seemingly agreed with Schroden's assessment of the potential dangers it may pose.

“House Republicans warned this would happen, yet there was zero oversight or investigation into Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan under [former House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi,” Walz said to the Mail.

The congressman added, “Rest assured, we will be holding hearings and looking into the consequences of leaving so much military equipment behind.”

Walz is not the only lawmaker vowing to investigate the status of abandoned weaponry, with Rep. James Comer (R-KY) – now House Oversight Committee chair – declaring last year, according to the Mail, that Americans deserved answers to what he called a “national security and humanitarian catastrophe” and adding that “[u]nder a Republican majority, the Biden administration's obstruction of this investigation will be met with the power of the gavel,” authority the party has already shown itself ready and willing to wield.