This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 19th report on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The report covers the period July 1, 2019 to October 25, 2019, summarizes the key events of the period, and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to OIR. Due to significant developments that took place in Syria in October 2019, this report extends beyond the normal reporting period of September 30, 2019. The Lead IG agencies considered it essential to report on the developments in October, and the effect on the OIR mission.
On October 9, Turkey launched air and ground operations against Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) positions in northeastern Syria that initiated a series of actions that affected the OIR mission against the ISIS. These actions also influenced the U.S. relationship with the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria, and control of territory in northeastern Syria.
Following the Turkish incursion, the United States ordered the withdrawal of its remaining forces in northeastern Syria, leaving U.S. troops at the At Tanf Garrison, a desert outpost near the Jordanian border. At the end of October, the United States announced that it would deploy U.S. troops to Dayr az Zawr province to help ensure that the U.S.-backed SDF, which includes the YPG, retain control of oil fields there.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reported to the DoD OIG that, according to open sources, ISIS exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of U.S. troops to reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad. According to the DIA, ISIS is “postured to withstand” al-Baghdadi’s death, and probably will maintain “continuity of operations, global cohesion, and at least its current trajectory.” Open-source analysis also stated that al-Baghdadi’s death was a significant blow to ISIS but would not likely end the ISIS threat.
In Iraq, the Combined Joint Task Force–OIR (CJTF-OIR) reported that ISIS continued this quarter to solidify and expand its command and control structures, although it had not increased its capabilities in areas where the Coalition was actively conducting operations against ISIS. CJTF-OIR also reported to the DoD OIG that ISIS combat power remains in restricted terrain and unpopulated areas where there is little to no local security presence.
This quarter, the Lead IG agencies and oversight partners issued seven oversight reports related to OIR. These included reports related to government property accountability; transportation, security, and safety programs at U.S. diplomatic facilities; and humanitarian and development assistance programs. As of September 30, 2019, the Lead IG agencies had 28 ongoing and 21 planned oversight projects, and 135 open investigations related to OIR.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the DoD OIG, DoS OIG, and USAID OIG—to work together to develop and carry out joint, comprehensive, and strategic oversight. Each IG retains statutory independence, but together they apply their extensive regional experience and in-depth institutional knowledge to conduct whole-of-government oversight of these overseas contingency operations.