This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 23rd 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 October 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
On December 2, intra-Afghan negotiating teams reached an initial agreement on rules and procedures to govern the talks and began to discuss an agenda before a mutually agreed upon break. At the same time, the Taliban continued its “fight and talk” strategy, increasing violence across the country to increase its leverage with the Afghan government in negotiations.
After the quarter ended, the DoD announced it had reduced the number of forces supporting OFS in Afghanistan to 2,500. Under the terms of the February 29, 2020 agreement with the Taliban, the United States committed to a gradual reduction in military presence in Afghanistan with a complete withdrawal by May 1, 2021. This withdrawal is contingent on the Taliban abiding by its commitments under the agreement, which include not allowing terrorists to use Afghan soil to threaten the United States and its allies. However, it was unclear whether the Taliban was in compliance with the agreement, as members of al-Qaeda were integrated into the Taliban's leadership and command structure.
Afghanistan entered a second wave of the coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID-19) pandemic this quarter, stressing the Afghan government's already strained healthcare system. Complicating the Afghan government’s response to the pandemic were public bias against COVID-19 testing, as well as limited resources, increased violence, and economic crisis.
During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued eight reports relating to OFS. As of December 31, 2020, 37 projects related to OFS were ongoing and 18 projects related to OFS were planned.
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 Office of Inspector General (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.