Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Enduring Sentinel I Quarterly Report

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This Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) report to the United States Congress is the 28th quarterly report detailing Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) and the 2nd report on Operation Enduring Sentinel (OES).  The report summarizes significant events involving OFS and OES, and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work.  This report covers the period from January 1, 2022, through March 31, 2022.  

OFS began on January 1, 2015.  Lead IG authorities and responsibilities for OFS will continue through September 30, 2022.  The Department of Defense (DoD) initiated OES on October 1, 2021 as the new U.S. mission to counter terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan.  According to the DoD, OES will focus on combating terrorist threats in Afghanistan from over-the-horizon locations, providing counterterrorism assistance for regional allies, and supporting the Department of State’s (DoS) diplomatic efforts related to Afghanistan.

Since the withdrawal of U.S. military forces in August 2021, the DoD has not conducted any counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan as of the end of this quarter.  The DoD’s over-the-horizon counterterrorism strategy has faced several challenges, including a lack of physical presence in Afghanistan or neighboring countries; reliance on overflight permission from Pakistan; long distances that aircraft must fly to reach targets in Afghanistan; and the loss of human intelligence assets on the ground.

ISIS-K remained the top terrorist threat this quarter, claiming responsibility for 41 terrorist attacks, including a bombing at a Shia mosque in Pakistan that killed 63 and wounded 200.  ISIS-K has approximately 2,000 members in Afghanistan, and its attacks have focused on the Taliban, religious minorities, and economic infrastructure. ISIS-K seeks to undermine the Taliban, and its propaganda aims to portray the Taliban as puppets of the West.

Neither the U.S. Government nor any other sovereign state recognized the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan during the quarter.  However, regional powers engaged diplomatically with the Taliban. Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan accepted Taliban-appointed “diplomats” in their capitals.  The U.S. Government urged other nations not to normalize relations with the Taliban until the regime shows progress on human rights, counterterrorism, and the formation of an inclusive government.

As of February 19, all remaining Afghan evacuees had departed the last U.S. domestic military facility serving as temporary housing prior to resettlement in the United States under Operation Allies Welcome.  Approximately 2,800 Afghans remained at facilities in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as of the end of the quarter.  Future arrivals to the United States will be processed through a non-DoD facility operated by the Department of Homeland Security.

Lead IG and partner agencies continued to conduct oversight projects related to these operations following the U.S. withdrawal and from Afghanistan.  During the quarter, the Lead IG agencies issued 15 reports, including 9 management advisories by the DoD OIG related to relocation of Afghan evacuees at DoD facilities.

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.

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