This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) is the 26th quarterly report detailing the overseas contingency operation. OFS began on January 1, 2015.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 July 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.
During the reporting period, the Taliban dealt a decisive military and political defeat to the Afghan government as the United States completed its withdrawal from the country. Over a period of 10 days, the Taliban captured the capital city of Kabul and all but one provincial capital through a combination of military offensives and negotiated surrenders with Afghan regional leaders.
When the collapse of the Afghan government became imminent, U.S. military forces reoriented their mission in Afghanistan to one focused on the evacuation of noncombatants, including U.S. Embassy staff, allied personnel, Afghan nationals who supported the U.S. Government, and their families. The Department of Defense (DoD) deployed an additional 5,000 troops to provide security for this effort. Senior DoD leaders coordinated on security matters with the Taliban, who formed an external security cordon around the airport. However, on August 26, an ISIS-K suicide bombing killed 13 U.S. Service members and approximately 150 Afghan civilians.
Shortly after taking power, the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government, consisting mostly of members of the 1990s Taliban government. Several cabinet members are under U.S. and international sanctions, including Minister of Interior Affairs Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list. The new Taliban government imposed restrictions on women in public life, including education, and reinstituted its morality police of the 1990s. It also began conducting diplomatic outreach, seeking recognition from other nations. As of the publication of this report, no sovereign nation had recognized the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.
Leading up to and during the evacuation, the Department of State (DoS) increased Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) processing and issuances for Afghan nationals who have worked for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan and who are experiencing ongoing and serious threats because of that employment. The DoD provided temporary housing on military facilities in both the United States and third-party countries for SIV-eligible Afghans to complete this processing in safety. As of September 1, approximately 20,000 Afghans—including principal SIV applicants and their immediate families—had arrived at military bases in the United States. However, a DoS official told reporters that the majority of eligible Afghans were likely left behind.
This quarter, Lead IG and partner agencies commenced oversight projects in response to the changing situation in Afghanistan. The DoD and Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspectors General (OIG) each initiated projects related to the screening of Afghan refugees entering the United States. The DoS OIG announced a review of the Afghanistan Special Immigrant Visa program. Additionally, the DoD OIG initiated an examination of the U.S. airstrike on August 29 that killed 10 Afghan civilians. During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued 15 reports relating to OFS.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the DoD 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.