The Doha peace talks which began in September 2020 and appear to be making progress will resume after a holiday break, according to a Qatari government official.
Some other countries volunteered to host the talks, but these countries withdrew, citing the coronavirus pandemic. As late as early December 2020, it appeared the Doha talks might break down, mostly because of religious disputes and the failure of participants to agree on a basic framework. But the Christmas spirit apparently helped delegates find some common ground. They plan to proceed to the next level when talks resume after the break.
Delegates are confident that they can strike a deal, despite the uptick of violence in the war-torn country.
Current Situation in Afghanistan
Once upon a time, armed conflicts usually had a clear winner and a clear loser. So, peace negotiations were more like peace dictates, and the talks were relatively straightforward. Additionally, in most armed conflicts, there was a clear-cut “good guy” and “bad guy,” at least in relative terms.
The Afghanistan War, which at last seems to be winding down after 20 years of fighting, has neither of these things.
When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the objective was to dislodge the Taliban from its perch atop Afghanistan’s warlord hierarchy. The Taliban vowed to drive the infidel invaders from the sacred soil of Afghanistan. By most measurements, both sides have failed, and failed rather miserably. After some substantial losses, the Taliban now controls almost as much of the country as it did in 2001. Although the Americans are leaving, the Taliban did not force them out. For better or worse, politics did that.
Furthermore, the Afghans never embraced the Americans as “good guy” liberators. During the 1980s Afghan-Soviet War, the Americans had a chance to endear themselves to independence-minded Afghans. They provided weapons to the mujahideen resistance, but only through third parties. During the Cold War, Americans thought it unwise to openly support the Afghan rebels and thus antagonize the Soviets.
As a result, most ordinary Afghans never knew that American support helped them drive the Soviet invaders from their homes. So, when the Americans invaded, they were simply another foreign power interested only in expanding their territory.
Yet despite the fact that there is no clear winner and no clear bad guy, the United States seems close to a peace deal which will effectively cripple the Taliban and keep it from harboring terrorists, like the late Osama bin Laden. In return, the Americans would leave the country to its own political devices. Simply put, both sides are exhausted, and everyone wants to go home.
When America’s protracted involvement in Vietnam ended, peace only came after a barbarous bombing campaign. And, as it turned out, that peace was temporary. Hopefully, neither of these things will be true in Afghanistan.
Contractors in Future Afghanistan
Another reason Afghans never saw Americans as liberators is that, after the Soviets were expelled, the Americans did nothing to help rebuild the war-torn country. Once again, the Americans felt the Cold War handcuffed them. After all, if I offer to clean up a mess, most people would assume that I was at least partially responsible for creating it. And, in most cases, that assumption would be correct.
But the Cold War handcuffs are now long gone. So, American contractors have a chance to help make Afganistan better than it was before, and win the hearts and minds of the people in the process. If Afghanistan’s history is any indication, the next destructive war is probably not too many years away.
Construction contractors usually concentrate on schools, roads, hospitals, power plants, and other key infrastructure items. Refugees normally will not go home until these items are in place. Until that happens, the area remains unstable, no matter what peace agreement is in place.
Generally, stateside contractors design the plans, build the team, and perform other back-office functions. At the construction site, overseas contractors usually supervise the work. Translators and other support contractors assist them. Local people typically do most of the work. This arrangement helps ensure that the project is finished on time and under budget. Additionally, this arrangement ties locals in the project and pumps some money into the local economy.
In some ways, these construction sites are nothing like American construction sites. Security is a good example. Vandals and thieves are the biggest threats in America. Armed insurgents are the biggest threat in Afghanistan. So, a security fence might be sufficient in America. But in Afghanistan, 24/7/365 armed security is usually necessary, to protect both property and workers.
In other ways, Afghan construction sites are a lot like American construction sites. Workers face essentially the same dangers, such as:
- Toxic exposure,
- Repetitive stress disorder,
- Electrocutions, and
- Motor vehicle crashes.
These threats might actually be worse in foreign countries. Most nations do not have workplace safety laws. Even if these laws exist, local inspectors are not keen to protect Americans.
Injury Compensation Available
In America, fishing is usually at or near the top of those “most dangerous jobs” lists. The injuries these people sustain are usually quite serious. Additionally, most fishing boats have little more than first aid kits. The nearest medical facility is miles away. So, by the time doctors see these victims, their conditions have deteriorated further.
Overseas construction contractor injuries are much the same. Except for military field hospitals, which might or might not trat construction contractors, hospitals are essentially non-existent in Afghanistan. Injury victims must be airlifted to a friendly nation, usually in the Arabian Peninsula or Europe.
As a result, the medical bills in these cases are often staggering. Medevac expenses alone could exceed $50,000. Because of the treatment delay, the hospital and physical therapy bills could easily be three or four times that high. Most health insurance companies refuse to pay these costs, and most families cannot possibly pay them out of pocket.
Fortunately, the Defense Base Act provides no-fault benefits which pay medical bills for injured contractors. This coverage usually includes:
- Emergency treatment,
- Medevac expenses,
- Extended hospitalization,
- Follow-up visits,
- Medical devices,
- Diagnostic and laboratory tests,
- Prescription drugs,
- Support services, and
- Physical or occupational therapy.
Insurance companies often contest medical bill payment, on the grounds that the treatment was not medically reasonable. Treatment in foreign countries is often much different than treatment in an American hospital. Furthermore, many contractors receive experimental treatments.
A DBA attorney advocates for victims in these situations. For example, if the insurance company tries to pull the financial plug during physical therapy treatments, attorneys help ensure that the money keeps flowing and the victim continues to recover.
For more information about the DBA wage replacement benefit, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.