This is the 13th Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) quarterly report to the United States Congress on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the overseas contingency operation (OCO) to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the 2nd quarterly report on Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P), the OCO to support the Philippine government’s fight against ISIS affiliates and other terrorist organizations.
The report covers the period January 1, 2018 through March 31, 2018, and summarizes the quarter’s key events for both the OIR and OPE-P missions. The report also describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to both operations.
In Iraq, the events covered during the quarter include the reduction in U.S. military personnel in Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces ongoing clearing operations against ISIS militants, and Iran’s growing influence in Iraq through its support for some Shia militias belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces. The report also discusses the challenges faced by Iraq’s central government to hold parliamentary elections in May, stabilize war-torn areas so that more than 2 million internally displaced people could return home, and repair relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
In Syria, the report discusses the “operational pause” in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS after Kurdish members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces went to help their brethren defend against Turkey’s incursion into northwestern Syria. The report also discusses President Donald Trump’s announced suspension of $200 million in unobligated stabilization funds for Syria, pending a review of stabilization programs. Additionally, the report provides a brief overview of the Syrian civil war, including the challenges to U.S. and Coalition efforts posed by Iran’s support for pro-Syrian regime forces, Russian military activity, and Turkey’s involvement in northern Syria.
In the Philippines, the report discusses the support U.S. military advisors have provided to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their fight against ISIS affiliates and other terrorist organizations. Late last year, violent extremists operating under the banner of ISIS were ousted from the southern provincial capital city of Marawi after seizing and holding it for 5 months. This quarter, these militants attempted to regroup elsewhere in the southern Philippines, reconstitute their strength, and plot their next attack. Meanwhile, significant destruction in Marawi and unexploded ordnance slowed the return of internally displaced residents.
This quarter, the Lead IG agencies and oversight partners released six oversight reports related to OIR. These included reports about the U.S. Navy’s oversight and administration of the base support contract in Bahrain, and the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria’s vetting process for new Syrian forces. In total, 55 oversight projects related to OIR and 1 related to OPE-P were ongoing as of March 31, 2017.
Section 8L of the Inspector General Act of 1978 provides a mandate for the three Lead IG agencies—the DoD OIG, Department of State OIG, and USAID OIG—to work together to develop and carry out joint, comprehensive, and strategic oversight of overseas contingency operations. 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 operations.