Russia Ups the Ante in Libya

Russia Ups the Ante in Libya

Violence in this war-torn country has moved up to the next level, according to the U.S. Africa Command, since Russian fighter planes are now based at Al Jufra Airfield, which is about 200 miles southeast of Tripoli.

American intelligence officers believe that the MiG-29 and Su-24 aircraft flew to Syria, where they were repainted to conceal their Russian Air Force markings. In Libya, these warplanes will probably support Wagner Group mercenaries in their campaign to aid General  Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize power. Probably not coincidentally, Haftar recently vowed to stage “the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history” to make up for recent losses. “If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities,” warned U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian. “If that day comes, it will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank,” he added.

6,000 U.S. troops, and an unknown number of contractors, are currently in Libya.

The War in Libya

Most people rejoiced when a 2012 revolution forced longtime strongman Muammar Qaddafi from power. But his sudden departure created a power vacuum which various groups, along with their international allies, are trying to fill.

In a confusing vote shortly after Qaddafi’s outset, the General National Congress became the largest political party in the new parliament. According to the United Nations, the 2012 elections were mostly fair and free. However, infighting among various GNC factions, as well as external security pressures, doomed the coalition party. As a result, in 2013, the GNC failed to win a majority vote.

Almost immediately, the GNC unilaterally renewed its own electoral mandate and vowed to stay in power until new elections were held. Shortly thereafter, rogue General Khalifa Haftar, whom some people labeled as a demagogue, announced the army’s opposition to extended GNC control. He later launched a military operation to topple the GNC.

The situation deteriorated further when two groups set up governments — the remains of the GNC in Tobruk and the Haftar-affiliated House of Representatives in Tripoli. All-out civil war followed.

The war’s effects have been devastating. Oil exports plummeted 90%, although they have risen some lately. Thousands have died, and according to some sources, a third of Libyans are refugees in neighboring Tunisia.

Internationally, Russia has cast its lot with General Haftar. Until the alleged arrival of Russian jets, Russian President Vladimir Putin had exclusively used the shadowy Wagner Group to assist Haftar. These mercenaries are allegedly closely associated with the Kremlin, an accusation Putin denies. The United States considers the flawed GNC to be the closest thing Libya has to a democratically-elected government.

Contractor Roles

Libya exemplifies the confusing military and political situation in many MENA (Middle East and North Africa) nations. This country also epitomizes the various roles of private military contractors. In Libya, contractors do pretty much everything.

Security for U.S. citizens is always the priority in situations like these. Private military contractors provide this type of security. Michael Bay’s 2016 film 13 Hours was based on security issues, or lack thereof, in Libya. In 2012, about a half-dozen private military contractors held off a much larger group of militants until U.S. citizens inside a consulate compound could be safely evacuated.

Most security missions do not turn into Hollywood movies. Few people would pay to see contractors at checkpoints check identifications. But these missions are the backbone of security in unstable foreign countries. They are arguably the best possible deterrent.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, thousands of U.S. servicemembers are in Libya. Typically, these men and women form the “teeth” of combat formations. Increasingly, private contractors provide the “tail.” Contractors are cooks, mechanics, morale officers, and other necessary workers.

Since they come from the private sector, contractors have unique qualifications in these areas. Their service also frees up servicemembers for combat operations.

Contractors also serve far away from combat zones. They train new recruits and maintain the sophisticated equipment on which today’s armies rely. Civilian authorities in Libya and the United States would most likely object if regular servicemembers performed these functions. But contractors know how to keep a low profile.

Compensation Available

The lost wages benefit is probably the most important Defense Base Act financial benefit. Medical expense payment is critical. But without wage replacement, injured victims would be forced to settle their claims early in the process. These settlements might only be for pennies on the dollar.

Specific wage replacement benefits are a compromise between the injured worker’s needs and the employer’s ability to pay. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the most common combat-related wounds among contractors, is a good example of the various compensation levels.

  • Permanent Total Disability: Generally, PTSD is totally disabling if the victim sufferers from extreme, ongoing symptoms which medication cannot sufficiently address. These symptoms include hallucinations and/or delusions, gross thought impairment, and persistent disorientation which makes victims a threat to themselves or others.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: These individuals can leave their homes, but they cannot function at their previous levels due to suicidal thoughts, poor impulse control (mostly sudden anger outbursts), impaired speech, and depression and/or panic attacks. Permanent disability victims usually receive lump sum payments, depending on the nature and extent of their disabilities.
  • Temporary Total Disability: In PTSD cases, PTD is only temporary if doctors believe the victim will respond to medication or therapy. These victims normally receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their temporary disabilities. The TTD category is probably the largest injury compensation category.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: Frequently, the aforementioned PPD symptoms are only severe if the victim experiences a triggering event. So, if the victim stays away from such events, the victim can recover more quickly. This avoidance usually means a stateside desk job instead of an overseas field deployment. If the new position’s compensation is lower, and it usually is, the victim receives two-thirds of the difference between the old and new salaries.

Calculating the AWW is not always easy. Many injured contractors are new contractors who recently left other civilian jobs. So, attorneys calculate their AWW only by looking at contractor wages. Other wages are largely irrelevant. Additionally, the AWW must account for irregular and non-cash compensation, like performance bonuses and housing allowance.

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