This is the 16th Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation (OCO) to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The report covers the period October 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, and summarizes the quarter’s key events and provides information on the status of OIR. The report also describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to OIR.
In December 2018, the Administration announced that it would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. The announcement followed months of fighting between U.S.-backed Syrian forces and ISIS in the middle Euphrates River valley, located in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. In mid-December, the U.S.-backed forces captured the town of Hajin, which had been ISIS last urban stronghold in Syria, although fighting continued in rural areas around the town.
According to the DoD, while U.S.-backed Syrian forces have continued the fight to retake the remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria, ISIS remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that “could likely resurge in Syria” absent continued counterterrorism pressure. According to the DoD, ISIS is still able to coordinate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency.
In Iraq, according to the DoD, security has improved in Iraq’s cities during this quarter, but ISIS remains active in rural parts of the country. In addition, the DoD reported that the Iraqi Security Forces are still reliant on the United States and Coalition support.
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 Stabilization, 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 OIR. This quarter, the Lead IG agencies and oversight partners completed 9 audit, evaluation, and inspection reports related to OIR, and conducted 91 open investigations involving grant and procurement fraud, corruption, theft, computer intrusions, and human trafficking allegations. Due to the furlough affecting the DoS and USAID OIGs, the oversight information includes only limited information on the details of their activities.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for 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.