This is the 21st Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation IANto combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The report covers the period January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020, and summarizes the quarter’s key events and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to OIR.
This quarter, the Coalition began consolidating forces to fewer bases in Iraq, which the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) stated was part of a long-term plan. This base transfer occurred amid force protection concerns sparked by escalating tensions between the United States and Iran and its proxy militias, which CJTF-OIR said led to an acceleration of the long-term transfer plan.
In addition, the coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19) pandemic significantly reduced operations this quarter. Iraqi Security Forces paused training activities and Syrian Democratic Forces paused operations against ISIS in response to the pandemic.
CJTF-OIR reported that ISIS continued to wage a “low-level insurgency” in both Iraq and Syria this quarter, but remains unable to hold territory and continues to rely on small-arms attacks. In Iraq, these attacks were concentrated in mountainous and desert provinces north and west of Baghdad. In Syria, the majority of attacks occurred in Dayr az Zawr, Hasakah, and Raqqah provinces.
The Iraqi government continued to face popular protests that subsided in March due to fears of COVID-19 and militia violence. In addition, plummeting oil prices strained the government’s budget. The Department of State (DoS) reported that without an increase in revenue, the government is unlikely to be able to fund its ministries after April.
In Syria, CJTF-OIR reported that the OIR mission and partner forces face “significant risk” from ISIS prisoners and supporters residing in camps for internally displaced persons. It said that the Syrian Democratic Forces face continued difficulty guarding detention facilities and ISIS-affiliated camp residents continue to facilitate ISIS activities.
In addition to restrictions caused by COVID-19, humanitarian relief agencies operating in Iraq faced additional obstacles this quarter after provincial governments instituted new requirements for work access authorization renewals. Hundreds of relief missions were canceled or supplies could not reach their destinations.
This quarter, the Lead IG agencies and oversight partners released 13 reports related to OIR. As of March 31, 2020, the Lead IG agencies had 24 ongoing and 19 planned oversight projects, and 120 open investigations related to OIR.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the Department of Defense OIG, DoS OIG, and U.S. Agency for International Development 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.