This is the 26th Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The report covers the period April 1, 2021 – June 30, 2021, and summarizes the quarter’s key events and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to OIR.
During the quarter, U.S.-led Coalition forces provided support and advice to Iraqi and Syrian partner forces conducting operations against ISIS. The Coalition Joint Task Force-OIR (CJTF-OIR) reported incremental progress in partner force capabilities to prevent an ISIS resurgence in both countries. However, ISIS continued to conduct attacks, and increased its operations during the month of Ramadan, which began in mid-April. ISIS utilized disputed area in Iraq to conduct attacks against Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga, and exploited the central desert in Syria to launch attacks aimed at Syrian regime and pro-regime forces. ISIS-related violence at the al-Hol humanitarian camp in northeastern Syria reduced following a sweep by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, but U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) reported that ISIS retained a “strong presence” in the camp. Media sources reported that ISIS violence increased in June. Iraq repatriated 93 Iraqi families from the al-Hol camp in May.
Iran-aligned militias launched at least five attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), indicating a new capability. Iran-aligned militias also fired rockets at Coalition forces in Syria. While the activity of these militias is not directly related to OIR, their actions continue to threaten the success of Coalition operations by diverting assets and resources from the fight against ISIS. The United States responded to the armed UAVs by launching airstrikes against militia facilities in Iraq and Syria.
Both countries continued to experience the economic, social, and political conditions that contributed to the rise of ISIS and could also contribute to the group’s resurgence. Economic crises have caused food shortages and unemployment in Iraq. Persistent economic decline and pandemic-related restrictions impeded the distribution of humanitarian aid in both countries. In Syria, in particular, ongoing uncertainty over the fate of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey into Syria has impeded the delivery of aid. In July, the UN Security Council voted to authorize the crossing for aid delivery to Syria’s rebel-held northwest for six months, temporarily alleviating concerns. Russia opposed authorizing aid for a 12-month period and opposes opening a second crossing that would also allow aid to flow from Turkey into northwestern Syria.
The Lead IG and partner agencies completed 10 reports related to OIR this quarter, including reports on USCENTCOM’s civilian casualty assessments, DoS contract oversight personnel in Iraq, and USAID processes regarding sexual exploitation and abuse allegations. The Lead IG and partner agencies have 81 open investigations.
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.