This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 16th 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 January 1, 2019, to March 31, 2019.
During the quarter, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, announced that U.S. and Taliban representatives had reached an “agreement in draft” on a framework for peace in Afghanistan. Under the draft agreement, the Taliban would deny safe haven to terrorist groups in Afghanistan, and the United States and international community would withdraw armed forces from the country. While the “agreement in draft” is an important milestone in the negotiation process, the peace talks could break down at any time.
As the negotiations continued, so did the conflict. This quarter, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) said that U.S. forces launched airstrikes targeting Taliban leaders, to limit their willingness to gather and plan attacks and “set the conditions for a political settlement.” However, it is unclear if U.S. military pressure on the Taliban factors into the group’s decision to remain engaged in the talks.
The 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, a dedicated U.S. Army brigade of advisors, deployed to Afghanistan during the quarter as part of the Resolute Support mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces. This report includes new and updated information on several aspects of the train, advise, and assist mission, including training of Afghan National Army recruits, growth of the Afghan Air Force, the Afghan National Army Territorial Force, and Afghan aviation and ground vehicle maintenance capacity.
This quarter, USFOR-A discontinued two assessments it previously said were metrics for success under the South Asia strategy: a district and population control assessment and a “workstrand” tracker that it used to measure ANDSF institutional growth. The discontinuation of these assessments reflects a recent shift towards more qualitative metrics, which makes it harder for the American public to track progress towards the goals of the OFS mission.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies and our oversight partners issued four reports relating to OFS that address topics such as OFS expenditures and Afghan Air Force maintenance capacity. Lead IG agency investigations this quarter closed seven investigations this 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, 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. 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.