The Biden Administration recently announced that as long as ISIL is a potential threat in the northeast, combat forces would remain in the war-torn country.
Many feared that Biden might suddenly withdraw from Syria in the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Former President Donald Trump considered such a move in 2019, when the U.S.-affiliated rebel group the Syrian Democratic Forces suffered a final defeat. But Trump ultimately reversed course. However, one Biden official said that comparing Syria and Afghanistan was like comparing apples to oranges. “People talk about how we’re pursuing an end to endless wars as if we’ve got this strategy to totally abandon all our commitments in the Middle East. This is frankly false and simplistic … Surprisingly, we know that Afghanistan and Syria are two different places, and that’s why our policies [towards each] were, and are, very different,” this person said.
Polls indicate that Americans opposed the Afghanistan War after Osama bin Laden’s death, but support has been consistently high for U.S. troops in Syria.
Syria: How We Got Here
Understanding the roots of conflicts helps us understand why they started and how to avoid them in the future, both politically and in our own lives.
The roots of the current Syrian Civil War go way, way back to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which the British and French secretly made in the middle of World War I.
In terms of size and scope, the Great War was not just larger and more destructive than previous conflicts. It might have been larger and more destructive than all previous conflicts combined. Yet in the midst of all this suffering, the French and British found time to carve up what they hoped would be the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
At that time, the Ottoman Empire controlled most of the oil-rich territories in the Middle East. The forward-thinking British were determined to have influence over them. As a result, the line Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot almost directly bisected what would become Syria. However, when the Great Powers made treaties like this one, they seldom cared anything about the people who lived on that land. They just wanted the land.
Abraham Lincoln once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Syria has been a house divided even before it became Syria. So, the current civil war in Syria is not surprising. The only surprise is that there have not been many more such wars.
The latest phase of the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, when protests across the Arab world tried to depose long-term dictators, like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Despite these efforts, Assad clung to power, largely thanks to his family’s Russian allies. Wagner Group mercenaries arrived almost as soon as the bullets started flying. American forces came ashore in 2014, ostensibly to contain ISIL. But the American Eagle also did not want the Russian Bear to have a stronger foothold in the region.
Currently, the government controls most of the country. But rebel and ISIL pockets remain, especially in the mostly-desolate east and south. Furthermore, Turkey has reclaimed a slice of its former empire by occupying border regions inside Syria. So, although most of the major fighting is over, the conflict continues.
Given the continued instability and threat of more attacks, security is important in Syria. Rebuilding the country is an even more urgent task. As long as cities and towns are largely in ruins, there can be no “normal” in Syria. Private military contractors play pivotal roles in both areas.
In semi-passive war zones, where there is some conflict but not much, deterrence and intelligence-gathering are the most important security functions. Frequently, regular servicemembers dislike such duties. That is somewhat understandable. Servicemembers are in-country to fight ISIL not to direct traffic and pry information from local residents.
Private military contractors not only accept such duties. They embrace them. Many of these individuals are former law enforcement officers. Security deterrence and interfacing with the community are essential parts of the job. At least they should be.
Generally, private contractors do most of the rebuilding work in war zones. Such projects require a special skill set. Simple tasks, like gathering the materials and hiring laborers, are very challenging in foreign countries. Once the work begins, things don’t get much easier. The labor and workplace safety laws in the United States do not exist in places like Syria. As a result, construction sites are hazardous.
These two areas often overlap. Security at a Syrian construction site must be much stronger than security at an American construction site. In addition to theft and vandalism, Syrian construction sites are prime targets for ISIL and other terrorists. Such attacks destabilize the area, reduce faith in the government, and eliminate trust in the contractor managing the work.
Speaking of project management, a special touch is necessary here too. Americans, whatever uniform they wear, have very bad reputations in much of the world. Private contractors must keep the project moving forward but not be overbearing.
Injury Compensation Available
As mentioned, construction sites in Syria are dangerous. Every year, the Fatal Four, which are outlined below, cause hundreds of construction site fatal accidents in the United States. Few reliable statistics are available for such fatalities in places like Syria. Most likely, such incidents kill thousands of workers, if not more.
- Falls: A fall from as little as four stories high is normally fatal. Slip-and-fall incidents are often deadly as well, especially if the victim had a pre-existing condition. Many of the safety measures available in the United States, like safety rails and harnesses, are unheard of in Syria.
- Caught Between: Large construction vehicles often dart back and forth across busy construction sites. If workers are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they could be caught between a mammoth construction vehicle and a fixed object, like a retaining wall. Once again due to the lack of safety protection, the fatality rate in such incidents is high.
- Struck By: If Alex drops a screwdriver on his foot, he might barely feel the impact. But if Alex drops a screwdriver from fifteen or twenty stories above ground, the impact could be nearly fatal to a pedestrian on the ground, even if the victim is wearing a hardhat.
- Electrocution: The language and cultural barriers sometimes come into play here. Workers who speak primarily Arabic might not understand electrocution warning signs in English. Moreover, these workers might be unfamiliar with warning graphics, like bolts of lightning. The aforementioned confusion at a construction site has an impact as well. It’s hard to distinguish between live and dead wires in such environments.
If contractors are injured in such incidents, or in any deployment-related incident, the Defense Base Act replaces lost wages and pays reasonably necessary medical expenses.
To learn more details about these benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, PA.