This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 13th 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 April 1, 2018, to June 30, 2018.
Since the Administration announced its South Asia strategy in August 2017, the U.S. Government has increased the amount of troops and equipment in Afghanistan, increased offensive strikes against the Taliban, expanded training and assistance for Afghan forces, and sought to pressure Pakistan to eliminate terrorist safe havens. Overall, the strategy seeks to drive the Taliban to enter into negotiations for a political settlement.
While it is difficult to fully assess the overall progress under the strategy, this report explores key developments during this quarter. Commanders in Afghanistan stated this quarter that the strategy is working, Afghan forces showed improvement, and the Taliban was largely unsuccessful in seizing district centers. In June, the Afghan government and the Taliban implemented ceasefires. At the time, Afghans and members of the international community expressed hope that the ceasefires would be first steps toward reconciliation.
However, fighting resumed after the ceasefires ended. The Taliban maintained its hold on rural parts of the country and launched attacks on Afghan forces and population centers. During this quarter, civilian deaths reached historically high levels, and violence displaced tens of thousands of Afghans. In addition, despite operational successes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, the terrorist organization continued to recruit and carry out high-profile attacks across Afghanistan that killed hundreds of civilians.
This quarter, the Afghan government made progress toward holding parliamentary elections by completing the voter and candidate registration processes despite deadly Taliban attacks on election facilities. Concerns remain regarding the security of polling places and staffing of the electoral committees. In addition, severe drought has critically affected 1.4 million Afghans, increasing the need for humanitarian assistance funding.
As of June 30, 2018, the Lead IG agencies and their partner agencies had 34 ongoing audits, evaluations, and investigations related to OFS. Lead IG agency investigations this quarter resulted in 4 criminal convictions, and 33 criminal investigations were ongoing at the end of the quarter.
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.