This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 15th quarterly report detailing the overseas contingency operation. The report summarizes significant events involving OFS and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work. This report covers the period from October 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018.
During this quarter, the security situation in Afghanistan remained volatile, as the Taliban and other terrorist groups continued to attack Afghan security forces and civilians. U.S. and Afghan forces continued to pressure and attack the Taliban and other terrorist groups with airstrikes and ground operations.
Afghanistan held parliamentary elections this quarter, although they were marred by violence and controversy surrounding the outcome. Despite this violence, significant numbers of Afghans went to the polls to cast their votes. The Afghan government continues to prepare for Presidential elections in July 2019.
During this quarter, there was notable activity on the diplomatic front. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, led several rounds of talks with Afghan and Taliban representatives. On January 29, 2019, after the quarter ended, Ambassador Khalilzad announced that he and Taliban representatives had agreed, in principle, to a framework for a deal, under which the U.S. would withdraw troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban would ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
These ongoing discussions represent a potential breakthrough in the peace and reconciliation process. However, U.S. and Afghan negotiators have many difficult steps ahead before they can reach a peace deal with the Taliban, particularly since the framework, as reported, does not address future Taliban relations or inclusion with the Afghan government. Key measures of security, including population control, incidents of violence, and civilian casualties remained unchanged or worsened compared to previous quarters.
Due to the partial government shutdown and the furlough of staff at the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, this report does not contain strategic oversight sections on Governance and Civil Society, Humanitarian Assistance and Development, and Stabilization and Infrastructure, which are provided by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development Offices of Inspector General.
This report also includes information on the Lead IG requirement to provide oversight of OFS. During the quarter, Lead IG agencies and our oversight partners issued nine reports relating to OFS that address topics such as munitions management and security force assistance. Lead IG investigations this quarter resulted in one arrest, one criminal charge, and two criminal convictions.
Operation Freedom’s Sentinel began on January 1, 2015. U.S. forces conduct two complementary missions under OFS: 1) counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K), and their affiliates in Afghanistan; and 2) training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led Resolute Support Mission. U.S. counterterrorism efforts remain focused on preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists planning attacks against the U.S. homeland and against U.S. interests and partners. The objective of the Resolute Support Mission is to develop self-sustaining Afghan security forces that are capable of maintaining security under responsible Afghan civilian authorities.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 directs the three Lead IG agencies—the DoD OIG, Department of State OIG, and USAID OIG—to work together to develop and carry out joint, comprehensive, and strategic oversight. Each IG retains statutory independence, but together they apply their extensive regional experience and in-depth institutional knowledge to conduct whole-of-government oversight of these overseas contingency operations.