Situation Continues Deteriorating in Afghanistan

And you thought it could not get any worse. Citing a lack of support from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Taliban is pulling up stakes in New Delhi.

The Afghan embassy said in a statement that the decision to close the mission fell in line with the previous announcement of ceasing operations in October, when it had pointed out the lack of support from India and no legitimate administration in Kabul.

The earlier decision came “in the hope that the Indian government’s stance would evolve favorably for the normal continuation of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” in the Indian capital.

However, the situation may not be permanent. India has, however, not rejected the attempts made by the Taliban’s Amir Khan Muttaqi-run Foreign Affairs ministry to establish diplomatic ties with India.

Are Private Military Contractors Still in Afghanistan?

We do not know for sure. The DoD does not release contractor figures in specific nations, only for a theater of operations, such as Southwest Asia. However, the evidence suggests contractors remain in Afghanistan. Immediately prior to America’s chaotic withdrawal from the war-torn country, the DoD went on a hiring spree, hiring several dozen security and intelligence contractors. Several thousand contractors were still in-country at that time, according to media estimates.

Security and intelligence are among the most important private military contractor job duties in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Security contractors usually staff checkpoints and patrol neighborhoods. These duties provide security for Americans and American property as well as local citizens. Terrorists intentionally target civilians. That is why they call them terrorists. When contractors inspect people and vehicles at checkpoints or create a deterrent presence on patrol, terrorist activity is less likely.

Many private military contractors are well-suited for such work. They gladly embrace security details, which some regular servicemembers consider a form of punishment. Furthermore, many private military contractors are former law enforcement officers. They know when and how to alternate between friendly officer and stern dad.

Intelligence contractors usually gather or interpret intelligence reports. While they are on patrol, or if they see the same person going to and from work multiple days at a checkpoint, contractors build relationships with local residents. So, these residents are more likely to provide critical intelligence about terrorist activities. Intelligence interpreters usually evaluate information based on factors like the source and the specificity and then pass that information along to their superiors, who are usually Army officers.

That last point brings up an important observation. Private military contractor work is not glamorous work. PMCs are basically office temps. They get the dirty jobs no one else wants. And they have good attitudes when they perform such duties.

Lingering Afghanistan Injuries

Some contractors linger in Afghanistan, and many returning contractors have lingering injuries. Head injuries and toxic exposure injuries are probably the best examples.

Initial head injury symptoms include disorientation and soreness. To most people, including most field medics, these symptoms point to accident shock, a temporary condition that goes away on its own. But head injuries do not go away on their own. In fact, they get progressively worse.

These initial symptoms soon become more serious symptoms, such as headaches and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). These symptoms indicate the presence of brain bleeding and swelling. At this point, these Traumatic Brain Injuries are very difficult to treat.

On a related note, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a physical brain injury, just like a TBI. Extreme stress changes the brain’s chemical composition, causing serious symptoms like:

  • Nightmares,
  • Anger,
  • Depression,
  • Flashbacks, and

However, in its early stages, PTSD symptoms are identical to NSR (normal stress response) symptoms. NSR, like accident shock, usually goes away on its own. Therefore, many doctors do not treat early-stage PTSD. As a result, these victims experience worsening symptoms, just like TBI victims.

Toxic exposure injuries, usually burn pit exposure, also develop very slowly over time. These slow-developing injuries include brain cancer and bronchiolitis obliterans (BO), a condition also known as constrictive bronchiolitis, obliterative bronchiolitis, and popcorn lung.

The body cannot naturally process the toxins in burn pit smoke. Contractors often burned waste in open-air pits. If these particles migrate to the brain, they usually form tumors.

These particles also cause BO if inhaled. The particles burn narrow breathing passageways in the lungs, causing scar tissue to build up and block them.

BO, like the other injuries mentioned above, is very hard to diagnose. It is rare in young people who are otherwise healthy, like returning Afghanistan private military contractors.

Injury Compensation Available

For regular servicemembers, the VA disability system provides injury compensation benefits. These benefits are only available for permanent disabilities. The Defense Base Act, which protects private military contractors, pays benefits for both temporary and permanent disabilities. DBA procedure is basically the same for both permanent and temporary disabilities.

Most injured victims must file written claims within ten days. Some exceptions apply to repetitive stress disorder and other occupational diseases. These victims often are not fully aware of their injuries for months or even years. Most insurance policies require written notice, which means a text or email may not suffice. The best practice is to immediately send an electronic notice and follow up with a “snail mail” notice.

A few claims settle at early settlement conferences. A mediator examines the medical records and other paperwork in the case. If insurance company lawyers do not contest the amount of damages, they often issue a check on the spot.

However, there is usually some question about damages. Medical bills are a good example. Insurance companies eagerly approve the cheapest possible treatment. Convincing them to approve reasonably necessary medical bills usually takes some time.

If the initial settlement conference breaks down, a Defense Base Act lawyer usually schedules an appeal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. ALJs are much like regular judges. ALJs allow lawyers to introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments.

Insurance companies know that a victim has the advantage at an ALJ hearing. Therefore, most DBA claims settle prior to this hearing and on victim-friendly terms.

For more information about DBA eligibility, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.