This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 17th 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, 2019, to June 30, 2019.
During the quarter, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, continued to hold direct talks with the Taliban on the framework of a peace agreement, although no official agreement has been announced. We will continue to report on these talks, and the impact of any agreement on OFS, in subsequent Lead IG quarterly reports.
While the talks continued, so did the fighting in Afghanistan. The Taliban continued to attack civilians, government installations, and Afghan security forces. In particular, the Taliban targeted Afghan checkpoints and transit routes near urban centers. This quarter, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) reported that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) had taken steps to reduce the number of static checkpoints in Afghanistan. This has been a long-standing area of concern for USFOR-A because the majority of ANDSF casualties occur at checkpoints.
According to USFOR-A, the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) began its advising mission in Afghanistan during the quarter, with an emphasis on improving ANDSF logistics capacity. The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), which is responsible for training and advising the ANDSF, provided a mid-year review to the DoD OIG, which stated that Afghan forces have demonstrated improved coordination and initiative. However, CSTC-A also acknowledged that the ANDSF still faces many challenges, such as those related to logistics, corruption, and leadership.
This quarter, the Department of State (DoS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) outlined plans to reduce their personnel presence in Afghanistan by September 15. USAID reported that it plans to reduce its programming by 40 percent and its staffing by 50 percent. Details of the DoS plan are discussed in the classified appendix to this report.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies and our oversight partners issued nine reports relating to OFS that address topics such as OFS expenditures and Afghan Air Force maintenance capacity. Lead IG agency investigative components this quarter closed 16 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.