This is the 27th 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 July 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021, summarizes the quarter’s key events and describes completed, ongoing, and planned Lead IG and partner agency oversight work related to OIR.
In July, the United States and Iraq announced that the security relationship between the two countries will fully transition to training, advising, and intelligence-sharing by December 31, 2021, and there will be no U.S. forces with a combat role in Iraq. The Department of Defense (DoD) reported that the transition will not impact counter-ISIS or logistics operations in Syria.
ISIS claimed fewer attacks during the quarter compared to the previous quarter, but remained entrenched as a low-level insurgency. In Iraq, ISIS carried several complex attacks, suggesting a higher level of operational maturity. In Syria, the group appeared to be consolidating in the desert and poised for increased activity in what the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) termed “the next stage of its insurgency.” ISIS also continued to focus activity in the al-Hol displaced persons camp, where it continued recruitment and indoctrination activities.
Combined Joint Task Force-OIR (CJTF-OIR) noted that partner forces, while demonstrating some areas of progress, continued to rely on U.S.-led Coalition support in conducting intelligence, surveille and reconnaissance (ISR); intelligence integration; and air strikes. The Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated poor operational security, a lack of reliable information on operations, complacency and poor air strike coordination and control. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) independently conducted only human intelligence gathering, relying on the Coalition for other intelligence capabilities. The SDF, with Coalition support, continued improve security at detention facilities holding ISIS fighters, but CJTF-OIR reported that conditions remained substandard, adding to the threat of breakouts.
During the quarter, the United States and international community supported Iraqi preparations for parliamentary elections that took place in October. Iran-aligned militias paused near-daily rocket and drone attacks against Coalition facilities in July. The DIA assessed the pause was aimed at avoiding disruption of the transition of U.S. forces to a non-combat role.
Economic crisis, drought conditions, and the effects of COVID-19 continued to contribute to instability across the OIR region and to provide fertile ground for ISIS to expand influence. The U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) continued to adjust stabilization projects in Syria due to reduced funding.
The Lead IG and partner agencies completed 12 reports related to OIR this quarter, including reports examining the effectiveness of the Defense Logistics Agency’s oversight of bulk fuel contracts in Iraq, the Army’s implementation of corrective actions to Middle East transportation programs, and a Department of State (DoS) audits, inspections and management assistance report related to contracts. The Lead IG and partner agencies continued 14 projects related to OIR and 15 were planned.
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.