This is the 28th Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation to advise, assist, and enable local partner forces until they can independently defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria, thereby setting conditions for the implementation of long-term security cooperation frameworks.
The report covers the period October 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021, 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. forces in Iraq completed their transition to an advise, assist, and enable role. The transition stemmed from agreements associated with the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue and occurred gradually over multiple preceding quarters.
ISIS remained entrenched in Iraq and Syria during the quarter. Although U.S. partner forces in Iraq and Syria were able to conduct successful operations against ISIS without Coalition involvement during the quarter, they also continued to rely on Coalition support. Combined Joint Task Force-OIR (CJTF-OIR) reported that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to experience organizational shortcomings—ranging from inefficient command and control systems to ineffective maintenance and logistical processes—that hindered its ability to operate independently. The Syrian Democratic Forces, while able to gather intelligence through their human intelligence networks, remained fully dependent on the Coalition’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, according to CJTF-OIR.
The Iraqi government successfully held parliamentary elections on October 10. Members of the international community (including the Department of State (DoS) and its partners) had worked with the Iraqi government over the past year as it prepared to hold the elections. The DoS reported that the elections were “technically sound,” yet uncertainty remained as the Iraqi parliament endeavored to form a new Iraqi government. CJTF-OIR said that the ISF’s performance while securing the elections serves as a “strong example” of its growing capabilities.
The U.S. Government continued stabilization activities that support people and institutions in parts of Iraq and Syria affected by conflict. Although it is difficult to assess the long-term effects of these activities—which range from support for civil society groups and independent media to fostering economic growth—the incremental progress made on repatriation of displaced persons is notable. The DoS reported that 128 Iraqi families returned to Iraq from the al-Hol camp in Syria during the quarter. However, according to the DoS, tens of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, and other foreign nationals continue to live in formal displaced persons camps and informal sites, with many facing extremely difficult living conditions.
The Lead IG and partner agencies completed 10 reports related to OIR this quarter, including a report examining the extent to which the DoD monitored and provided care for Service members suspected of sustaining a traumatic brain injury and a report examining whether the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) took adequate steps to reduce potential law of war violations when conducting operations. The Lead IG and partner agencies continued 11 projects related to OIR and 14 were planned.
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 United States 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.