This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 7th quarterly report on Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P), the overseas contingency operation to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ fight against ISIS affiliates and other terrorist organizations. This report summarizes significant events related to this operation and describes ongoing and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work. This report covers the period from April 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.
In June, ISIS-East Asia (ISIS-EA) carried out its first suicide bombing committed by a Philippine national. This apparent change in tactics caused U.S. and Philippine officials to reassess previous assumptions that the Filipino people are culturally averse to suicide attacks and challenged the notion that these militants have simply adopted the ISIS “brand” without its ideology. Additionally, Philippine security forces struggled to combat kidnap-for-ransom activity, which represents a key funding source for ISIS-EA.
In the 35th annual Balikatan bilateral military exercise, approximately 7,500 U.S. and Philippine troops conducted training activities related to counterterrorism, including maritime security operations, close air support, amphibious operations, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects. Additionally, the Department of State (DoS) conducted training courses with Philippine law enforcement personnel.
This quarter, the Muslim-majority provinces of the southern Philippines worked to establish a new, semi-autonomous regional government. This new government faced several challenges, including a lack of funding and inexperience in governance among its leaders, many of whom are former militants. Under the terms of a peace agreement with the Philippine government, 40,000 former insurgent fighters will need to be decommissioned. This quarter, it was uncertain what benefits these former fighters would receive and how they would be reintegrated into civilian life.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding in the Philippines this quarter focused primarily on programs to rebuild communities and counter violent extremism. Violence this quarter temporarily displaced approximately 51,000 residents in the southern Philippines, most of whom were able to return home by the end of the quarter.
This quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued two oversight projects related to OPE-P. Four Lead IG and partner agency oversight projects related to OPE-P were ongoing, and one was planned, as of June 30, 2019.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the Department of Defense, DoS, and USAID Offices of Inspector General—to work together to develop and carry out joint, comprehensive, and strategic oversight. Each Inspector General retains statutory independence, but together they apply their extensive regional experience and in-depth institutional knowledge to conduct whole-of-government oversight of this overseas contingency operation.