This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 14th 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 July 1, 2018, to September 30, 2018.
During the quarter, General Austin Scott Miller assumed command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and the Resolute Support mission. Also this quarter, the Trump Administration’s South Asia strategy passed its one year mark. Under the strategy, 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.
In public statements, diplomatic and military leaders emphasized that progress towards the goals of the South Asia strategy is being made. However, available measures of security in Afghanistan, including total security incidents, population control, and civilian casualties, showed little change. This quarter, 65 percent of the Afghan population lived in areas under government control or influence, a figure that has not changed in the past year. The United Nations reported that civilian casualties during the quarter increased compared to the same period last year. Similarly, casualties to Afghan security forces exceeded casualty rates during the same period last year. ISIS-K continued to mount deadly attacks in its stronghold in Nangarhar province and in Kabul.
Despite continued efforts and activities, there was little clear progress toward reconciliation during the quarter. Media outlets reported that a senior Department of State (DoS) official met with Taliban officials in July, though the DoS declined to provide a public comment to the DoS Office of Inspector General about these reports. In September, the DoS appointed Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to serve as Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation. Also during the quarter, the Taliban did not reply to President Ghani’s offer to implement a second cease-fire during the Eid al Adha holiday. Instead, the Taliban focused on its stated goal of disrupting preparations for the October parliamentary elections.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies and our oversight partners issued 11 reports relating to OFS that address topics such as contract performance and accountability, fire safety standards, and a Department of State aviation program. Lead IG agency investigations this quarter resulted in 3 debarments and numerous fines and recoveries.
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.