Publicly Released: August 17, 2021
This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) summarizes historical oversight activities from April 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021, and provides background about events leading up to recent, significant and fast moving developments in Afghanistan. Future Lead IG quarterly reports will further highlight these and other developments in Afghanistan.
During the reporting period, the Biden Administration announced that U.S. and NATO forces would withdraw from Afghanistan no later than September 11, 2021. The Department of Defense (DoD) announced that special operations forces would deploy to Afghanistan to support the safe withdrawal of U.S. personnel. As the U.S. military presence leaves Afghanistan, the DoD is transitioning its support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the continued U.S. counterterrorism mission to an “over-the-horizon” model. After the quarter ended, U.S. military assets supporting OFS began realigning their support capabilities with this new mission.
During the withdrawal, the Taliban increased its campaign of violence against ANDSF and civilians across the country. Despite the rise in violence, ongoing peace negotiations between the Afghan Islamic Republic and Taliban negotiating teams continued but achieved no substantive progress. According to the Department of State (DoS), the Taliban continues to engage in the peace process because the group seeks international legitimacy and assistance, as well as the removal of U.S. and UN sanctions.
As the DoD restructured its counterterrorism mission to locations outside of Afghanistan, ISIS—Khorasan exploited the political instability and rise in violence during the quarter by attacking minority sectarian targets and infrastructure to spread fear and highlight the Afghan government’s inability to provide adequate security. Additionally, the Taliban continued to maintain its relationship with al-Qaeda, providing safe haven for the terrorist group in Afghanistan.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued 15 reports relating to OFS. As of June 30, 2021, 39 projects related to OFS were ongoing and 12 projects related to OFS were planned. Lead IG investigations related to OFS resulted in six criminal charges and two convictions.
The 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, and their affiliates in Afghanistan; and 2) training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces through the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG), DoS OIG, and U.S. Agency for International Development 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.