This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 9th 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, and covers the period from October 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019.
This quarter, ISIS-East Asia (ISIS-EA) carried out terrorist attacks against civilians and engaged in combat with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This fighting resulted in the capture of terrorist camps and weapons by the AFP but also led to the displacement of nearly 50,000 civilians.
While there was no significant change in the strength, capabilities, territory, or leadership of the Philippine ISIS affiliates, these terrorist groups, which range in size from several dozen to several hundred members, remain a destabilizing influence in an already volatile region. U.S. forces continue to advise and assist their Philippine partners in counterterrorism operations, particularly in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
This quarter the Philippine government announced that, despite the threat still posed by ISIS-EA, regional stability had improved sufficiently for the government to end martial law in the southern Philippines. However, the AFP announced that although martial law had been lifted, the Philippine military and police will maintain an active counterterrorism mission in the region.
Reconstruction of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, devastated by the 2017 battle between ISIS-EA and the AFP, continued to be delayed this quarter due to multiple government corruption scandals. The U.S. Embassy in Manila assessed that the lack of progress in rebuilding the city generated public discontent, which may contribute to terrorist anti-government narratives. This quarter, USAID stated that it would wind down its post-siege Marawi recovery efforts and refocus its efforts in the region on governance and civic engagement.
Seventeen Lead IG and partner agency oversight projects related to OPE-P were ongoing, and seven were planned, as of December 31, 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.