The Department of Defense is experiencing difficulties conducting its over-the-horizon capabilities in Afghanistan in the time since the U.S. military withdrew, according to the inspector general.

Since withdrawing, the department’s policy has been to rely on its ability to conduct strikes from afar to conduct counterterrorism operations, without a single strike taking place since America's military finished its departure from Afghanistan.

The inspector general's office released its quarterly report on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on Tuesday, which laid out the terrorism situation in Afghanistan.


“Without a presence on the ground, the DoD relies on aviation assets to collect intelligence, surveil terrorist targets, and carry out airstrikes on terrorist targets. The DoD therefore requires overflight agreements with another bordering nation to enter Afghan airspace,” the report read, later noting that the only neighboring country that allows the United States to use its airspace to enter Afghanistan's is Pakistan.

The U.S. is “limited” in its ability to gather intelligence, the report explained, and it noted another challenge was the required flight time to conduct strikes that originated from a neighboring country.

Then-Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, now the commander of CENTCOM, told lawmakers in February that over-the-horizon counterterrorism was “extremely difficult, but not impossible," whereas earlier this month, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that he believed the U.S. has “room to improve” its capabilities, but he didn’t elaborate.

Islamic State Khorasan Province is the prevailing terrorist threat in Afghanistan, and the group is considered to be about “a year [or] slightly longer" from having the capability to launch against Western countries, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who testified alongside Berrier, agreed with his assessment calling ISIS-K “the more concerning threat.”

The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, ending a 20-year occupation of the country, at the end of August, but not without controversy. At the time the U.S. left, the Taliban had overthrown the American-backed administration of President Ashraf Ghani, which caught officials in Washington by surprise.

In the two-week period following the Taliban's ascension to power, Western countries conducted a large-scale evacuation effort in which more than 100,000 people were helped to leave the country. Evacuees thought they would be at risk under the Taliban regime, though many others, including Afghans who helped the U.S. war effort, were left behind.


In the final days of the evacuation effort, an ISIS-K terrorist detonated a suicide vest at the airport where Afghans were going to evacuate, and 13 U.S. service members and roughly 170 civilians were killed. The man responsible had been imprisoned, but the Taliban let him and hundreds of others free once they gained control of the prison.

Days later, with intelligence suggesting another terrorist attack was imminent, the U.S. launched a drone strike targeting someone whom they believed to be a threat to the evacuation efforts, but their intelligence was wrong. The U.S. targeted and killed Zemari Ahmadi, an aid worker, and multiple family members, including seven children in all. The Pentagon has since acknowledged that Ahmadi had no ties to terrorists.