Peace Talks End, and Violence Escalates, in Afghanistan

Peace Talks End, and Violence Escalates, in Afghanistan

It is apparent that America’s longest war will go on even longer, as neither side will be hammering their swords into plowshares anytime soon.

Taliban and government leaders were scheduled to meet in a secret Camp David summit. Days before the meeting, a bomb in Kabul killed 12 people, including one American soldier and 10 civilians. After the Taliban took responsibility, President Donald Trump cancelled the summit. Many Republicans inside and outside the Administration believe it is too early to withdraw and the Taliban cannot be trusted, and this latest incident reinforced their misgivings.

Days later, an Afghan government raid on suspected Taliban positions, which was backed by U.S. airstrikes, killed some forty civilians, many of whom were attending a nearby wedding. 22 Taliban and foreign fighters died as well. There have been at least two other deadly incidents in recent weeks.

According to some, the Taliban is stronger now than at any time since the October 2001 U.S. invasion. Taliban forces control about half the country.

The Afghanistan War

Since 2001, servicemembers and contractors have fought side by side to drive the oppressive Taliban from Afghanistan. To many Afghans, the Americans are simply another invading army. Over the decades, there have been a number of these armies in Afghanistan. None have stayed for long, so many Afghan fighters are convinced they can out-last the Americans. Thus, the fighting continues.

In the 19th century, the British, who were based in India, tried to expand their influence into Southwest Asia. But despite years of struggle, they could never overcome Afghan resistance.

More recently, the former Soviet Union tried to expand into the area as well, launching a massive invasion in 1979. Since the Soviets did not suffer from the same logistical disadvantages as the British (i.e. the Soviet Union bordered Afghanistan and was not half a world away), it initially looked like the Russian Bear may prevail.

To keep that from happening, the CIA encouraged Islamic militants to wage a jihad (holy war) against the Red Army. This tactic eventually succeeded, with an assist from American weapons like Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. As it turns out, the strategy may have worked too well.

After the Soviets withdrew, the various militant warlords no longer had a common enemy. In the power struggle that followed, the Taliban finally came out on top. Not long thereafter, the Taliban sheltered Saudi Arabian dissident Osama bin Laden, as he built his organization and planned revenge against the Americans whom he believed had usurped Saudi sovereignty.

About a month after 9/11, American troops arrived in Afghanistan, determined to dethrone the Taliban. Although they have made some progress, their mission is not yet complete. The Taliban is no longer in a position to harbor foreign terrorists, but it is in no danger of losing its grip on power.

Contractors in Afghanistan

Private military contractors made this progress possible. In many years, the private contractors have outnumbered regular servicemembers. In many ways, private contractors fulfil roles that regular servicemembers cannot perform.

Contractors can be ready quickly. They do not need months of training and preparation. They can deploy after just one phone call. So, if commanders have an immediate need, contractors are there.

Furthermore, contractors are highly motivated. Some regular servicemembers chafe at assignments like sentry duty or house-to-house interrogations in rural villages. But in many cases, contractors are trained for these responsibilities. So, they wholeheartedly embrace them.

Finally, contractors are more financially efficient. Yes, they earn substantially more cash compensation than regular servicemembers. And, since much or all of that money is U.S. tax-free, many former servicemembers enjoy serving as contractors. But contractors, like stateside independent contractors, have no medical or other benefits. However, they are entitled to injury-related benefits, as outlined below.

Injury Compensation Available

These benefits are available for both trauma injuries, such as falls, and occupational diseases, such as repetitive stress disorder. But the Defense Base Act does more than pay for reasonably necessary medical expenses. It also compensates job injury victims for their lost wages.

Since injuries come in many forms and degrees, several types of compensation are available as well, largely depending on the nature and extent of the illness or injury:

  • Permanent Total Disability: Generally, the Defense Base Act pays PTD victims a lump sum. Bear in mind that “disability” does not mean “bedridden.” Much like many legally blind people can still see, many legally disabled people are still relatively active. For example, the Veterans Administration gives full disability benefits to veterans who are only 60% disabled, in some cases.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: PPD benefits usually depend on the location and severity of the injury. Additionally, “disability” is not just a medical term. This word also has significant medical and legal connotations. To obtain maximum compensation in these matters, DBA lawyers often partner with vocational experts and other professionals.
  • Temporary Total Disability: Most victims have TTD illnesses or injuries. These individuals will recover, but for now, they are unable to work. So, the Defense Base Act usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage (AWW) for the duration of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: Alternatively, some victims can work as they recover, but the must accept light duty or another lower paying job. So, DBA insurance usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new AWWs.

Calculating the average weekly wage is sometimes complex. The AWW does not just include regular cash compensation. It also includes overtime, performance bonuses, and expense reimbursement. Furthermore, the math is not always simple. For example, if Paul drove a truck in Texas, came to Afghanistan, worked for a week, and was injured, his AWW does not include his Texas wages. His Afghanistan wages are all that matter.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. to learn more about DBA procedures.