Operation Freedom's Sentinel Quarterly Report January 1, 2020 - March 31, 2020

Overseas Contingency Operations

Under the Lead Inspector General framework, the Inspectors General for the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development conduct oversight of and report on the overseas contingency operation "Operation Freedom's Sentinel."

This quarter, U.S. and Taliban representatives signed an agreement under which the United States began to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from roughly 13,000 to 8,600. A full withdrawal of coalition forces within 14 months of the signing of the agreement is contingent on several requirements for the Taliban, such as preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan to threaten the United States or its allies. The UN Security Council approved a resolution endorsing the U.S.-Taliban agreement, and China, Russia, and Pakistan issued statements favorable to the agreement.

USAID anticipates that anticipated appropriations for USIAD non-humanitarian assistance funding in Afghanistan will fall 46 percent from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2021, from $500 million to $27 million. Funding remaining from prior appropriations decreased from $2.6 billion in October 2019 to $2 billion in March 2020. To counter the expected sharp decline in external assistance, the Afghan government will need an increase in revenue to supplement foreign assistance, fund its defense, deliver services to its citizens, and transition toward self-reliance. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in Afghanistan, the World Bank projected that domestic revenue would be flat in 2020. The pandemic will likely impose further strain on the Afghan economy. USAID reported that its activities focused on enabling private sector growth, to support revenue generation.

The COVID-19 pandemic will significantly weaken the Afghan economy, diverting limited government resources, imposing additional strain on the healthcare system, and moving millions of people further into poverty. The United Nations reported that the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan confirmed its first patient with COVID-19 on February 24 in Herat, where the local government declared a state of emergency. As of March 31, there were 174 reported cases of COVID-19 in 17 provinces across Afghanistan, including 4 deaths. Most of these cases were located in Herat province, which borders Iran. More than 200,000 Afghans returned from Iran this quarter, some because of the collapsing Iranian economy and others because of the large COVID-19 outbreak there, with over 41,000 confirmed cases in Iran as of March 31. Testing in Afghanistan had only occurred on a small scale, which may explain the relatively low number of confirmed cases, in spite of the increase in the number of Afghans returning from Iran. Without sufficient action, the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health estimated that 25.6 million out of a population of approximately 36.6 million would likely be infected with COVID-19 and 110,000 could die.

Operation Freedom's Sentinel, Report-In-Brief