This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 21st 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, 2020, through June 30, 2020.
The United States reduced its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 military members, the first step toward a full withdrawal under terms of the February 29 agreement with the Taliban. The United States committed to making a complete withdrawal by April 2021, if the Taliban committed to preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan to threaten the United States or its allies, and holding peace talks with the Afghan government. The Taliban did not appear to uphold its commitment to distance itself from terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. UN and U.S. officials reported that the Taliban continued to support al-Qaeda, and conducted joint attacks with al-Qaeda members against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The United States also committed to act as a facilitator in pursuing the release of prisoners held by the Afghan government. The Taliban and the Afghan government failed to reach consensus on the release of prisoners during the quarter. While the Taliban ceased attacks against U.S. and coalition targets, it has increased the frequency of attacks against Afghan security forces and the Afghan government. The increased violence and dispute over prisoner releases were significant barriers to the Afghan government and Taliban beginning peace negotiations, and delayed the planned March 10 start to the negotiations.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah settled their dispute over who won the 2019 election. Under the political agreement, Ghani remained president and Abdullah was appointed to lead the Afghan government's peace process as Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
The coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continued to spread across Afghanistan, disrupting coalition and Afghan security initiatives and further stressing the country’s fragile economy. According to the UN, 31,836 people in Afghanistan had tested positive for COVID-19 and 774 people had died due to the outbreak as of June 30. The outbreak also forced the NATO-led coalition ceased to cease face-to-face train, advise, and assist efforts in order to prevent the disease's spread between coalition advisors and their Afghan counterparts. The U.S. and coalition reduced non-essential personnel to decrease the overall medical burden, but took steps required to protect remaining forces.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued 18 reports relating to OFS. The investigative branches of the Lead IG agencies and their partner agencies coordinated on 92 open investigations, involving allegations of procurement and grant fraud, corruption, computer intrusions, and human trafficking.
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.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the Department of Defense OIG, Department of State 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.