Edging Closer to Peace in Afghanistan

Edging Closer to Peace in Afghanistan

Three years after longtime Afghanistan NATO commander John Nicholson said the conflict was a “stalemate,” America’s longest war might be closer to ending than it has ever been.

An RIV (reduction-in-violence) agreement is already in place. This pact, which is basically a limited cease-fire, has largely held. As a result, negotiators felt it was time to take the next step. This pre-agreement is not a peace agreement. But it does bring the Taliban, Afghan government, and the United States together to shape the future of Afghanistan. These inter-Afghan negotiations could take months to complete.

The pre-agreement is the latest development from the Doha peace talks, which began in 2018.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

When the current war began, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were champions of football and the iPhone was barely a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. American-lead NATO forces had two basic objectives: dislodge the Taliban and bring some semblance of democracy to the country. Arguably, the Amercians have achieved neither of those objectives. However, the Taliban is as tired of war as the Americans, and they seem to be willing to lay down their arms, at least in part. So, a measure of victory is still possible.

Whether or not that victory lasts largely depends on what happens during the rebuilding period. Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals, must be rebuilt on schedule. If not, refugees probably will not return, leaving that area ripe for further instability.

Contractors play a vital role in this process. Construction companies must plan these projects and also furnish most of the supervisors and managers who are on the ground. Foreign workers usually handle much of the other work. That arrangement pumps some money into the local economy and also gives residents a stake in the outcome. As a result, they are less likely to support militant attacks and other workplace disruptions.

However, such events are probably inevitable. In America, construction site security details are mostly concerned with theft prevention. But in places like Afghanistan, things can quickly go sideways. A sudden Taliban attack could erase months of work and cost many dollars to repair, putting the entire project at risk.

So, in addition to construction contractors, private military contractors will be a big part of rebuilding. Additionally, security contractors must continue to police Afghanistan to deter Taliban and other militants. Otherwise, it could be 1991 all over again, and no one in Washington wants that.

After the Soviet Union called off its invasion of Afghanistan, militant groups began fighting each other for the chance to fill the power vacuum. One of those groups soon became the Taliban, and we all know what happened next.

Contractors in Southwest Asia

Largely because of calls to privatize the war in Afghanistan, the private military contractors there might be the most visible ones in Southwest Asia. However, contractors are an important part of the American mission elsewhere, in places like:

  • Iraq: When the U.S. invaded Iraq, many people thought the conflict might be a second Gulf War and the Americans would quickly overwhelm the Iraqis. That did not quite work out, as like Afghanistan, the Iraq War deteriorated into a prolonged anti-insurgency campaign. Contractors are vital in such actions. They do not just fight hard. They also know how to gather intelligence and perform other tasks.
  • Qatar: This Persian Gulf kingdom is basically an enormous staging area for American forces in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Most of the contractors in Qatar perform logistic and support duties. Today’s sophisticated weapons require a lot of TLC, and contractors are trained to provide it.
  • Syria: The action in Syria offers a clear distinction between Russian Wagner Group mercenaries and American private military contractors. Mercenaries launch offensive operations. Contractors, at most, are defensive. Indeed, most contractors use laptops, screwdrivers, or other such tools much more frequently than they use machine guns.
  • Kuwait: Much like Qatar, this Persian Gulf state is also a staging area. But there are some differences. First, it is closer to more active theaters, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. So, a disproportionate number of contractors work on aircraft, cruise missiles, and other quick-strike weapons. Additionally, the U.S. presence is a bit larger, because Kuwait owes its independence to the United States.

Enemy action is definitely not the only threat in Southwest Asia. The challenging environment also causes a number of occupational diseases. Military activity, like burn pits, contributes significantly to this risk.

Injury Compensation Available

Trauma injuries, like falls, and occupational diseases, like DRLD (deployment-related lung disease), often sideline contractors for extended periods of time. Frequently, contractors are a family’s primary or only income source. Therefore, the Defense Base Act’s wage replacement benefits are vital. These benefits usually come in one of four forms:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Most injured victims are eligible for TTD benefits. In most cases, that means two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: TPD victims are able to work as they recover, but they must accept a desk job or another light duty assignment. Generally, this work does not pay as much as their regular jobs. So, the DBA pays two-thirds of the difference until an independent doctor clears the victim to return to work.
  • Permanent Total Disability: Many people are disabled but still able to function pretty well in everyday life. They simply cannot return to the kind of work they had before. Loss of a limb is a good example. A prosthetic is a good substitute, but the contractor’s paramilitary days are probably over.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Some victims are like the Fisher King. Their wounds never heal, or at least they never completely heal. Examples include loss of motion in an injured shoulder or lingering respritporty problems because of burn pit exposure. The available compensation helps bridge the gap between the victim’s former life and the victim’s new work-related illness or injury restrictions.

Generally, TTD and/or TPD benefits are available until victims fully recover or reach their maximum medical improvement (MMI) level in physical therapy.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. for more information about DBA medical benefits.