Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines | Quarterly Report to Congress | Jul. 1 to Sept. 30, 2019

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This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 8th 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 July 1, 2019, to September 30, 2019.

In June, ISIS-East Asia (ISIS-EA) engaged in minor clashes with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), including an attempted suicide bombing in September. While Philippine jihadists have not historically employed suicide tactics, five terrorists associated with ISIS-EA have carried out or attempted three such attacks in 2019. This has been partially attributed to the influence of foreign fighters. This quarter, Philippine law enforcement arrested suspected terrorists from Kenya, Sweden, and Jordan.

The annual Mutual Defense Board, which coordinates all bilateral security cooperation between the United States and the Philippines, met in Manila this quarter and agreed to more than 300 security cooperation activities in FY 2020. U.S. military advisors worked with the Philippine partners this quarter to develop skills related to counterterrorism.

This quarter, challenges with mitigating the risk of unexploded ordnance continued to delay the reconstruction of the southern Philippine city of Marawi. These explosive remnants of the 2017 fighting that devastated the city’s infrastructure remain buried beneath the rubble and are a significant barrier to reconstruction. Disputes between the Philippine government and contractors have resulted in repeated extensions of the government’s estimate of when the city will be safe for civilian construction to begin.

Conflict involving ISIS-EA, local clan feuds, and natural disasters resulted in 29,000 new internally displaced persons (IDP) this quarter. These are in addition to the 66,000 long-term IDPs remaining from the 2017 Marawi siege. While projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) expanded access to clean water for 14,400 IDPs, many of them continue to lack reliable access to safe drinking water.

This quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued two oversight projects related to OPE-P. Seven Lead IG and partner agency oversight projects related to OPE-P were ongoing, and eight were planned, as of September 30, 2019.

Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the Department of Defense, Department of State, 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.

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