How many times have we heard that there are plans afoot to “bring the boys home by Christmas”? But with a peace deal seemingly within reach, this time, that might actually happen.
It is uncertain if the President’s tweet was a policy statement, a wishful desire, an Executive Order, or something else. The United States has already agreed to withdraw by May 2021, so the tweet does not come out of left field. If it is a policy statement, it simply moves up the timetable.
Currently, the U.S. presence in this Southwest Asian nation is 97% smaller than its Obama-era peak.
Effects of a Prompt Withdrawal
1944’s combined airborne-land invasion of Holland was supposed to end the fighting by Christmas. Ditto the 1950 Inchon landing in Korea. Operation Market Garden was almost a complete disaster. The Inchon landing lengthened the war instead of shortening it.
Nevertheless, the prospect of an imminent end to the “forever war” in Afghanistan is appealing to people on both sides of the aisle. And, that could happen. Before it does, there are some things to consider.
- America is not in this alone. Other members of the NATO-led coalition are fighting in Afghanistan. A U.S. pullout would significantly compromise their positions, to say the least.
- The military can move a lot of equipment between now and Christmas. However, a significant amount will probably have to be destroyed, lest it fall into the hands of the Taliban.
- Speaking of the Taliban, they would conclude that the U.S. has no more stomach for combat, which is arguably true, and therefore double down on their demands in the ongoing peace negotiations.
- In March 1972, shortly after the last American ground troops left Vietnam, the North Vietnamese launched their brutal Easter Offensive. The same thing would probably happen in Afghanistan in 2021.
- Speaking of Vietnam, you have probably seen the iconic photograph of the last helo flying out of Saigon as people clamored to get aboard. That scene could be repeated in Kabul in the coming years.
- Post-withdrawal Afghanistan could also resemble another Cold War battleground. After Tito died, Yugoslavia split into several different nations. Civil war and ethnic cleansing were rampant in the former Yugoslavia for several years before the situation finally stabilized.
- According to U.S. intelligence, the Taliban gains about 1% of the country’s territory and population per year. If true, that statistic points to a worsening civil war that would kill and displace more people.
- Back to the beginning, if the U.S. suddenly pulls up stakes, the other NATO countries, which do not particularly like America to begin with, would not be happy.
Not all these bullet points are equal risks. In fact, the risk of some is negligible at best. So, whoever makes this decision must carefully weigh the pros and cons. That is a decision that is above our pay grade, and frankly, that is the way we like it.
Contractors in Afghanistan
Withdrawal or not, there is no doubt that the Afghanistan War is in the wind-down phase, at least for regular servicemembers. Contractors still have jobs to do.
Afghanistan must be fully secured and completely rebuilt before NATO or any other coalition power can declare victory. If the United States is able to provide these things, a power sharing arrangement is not the end of the world. The Afghans know who is buttering their bread.
Contractors fulfil these security roles in both the short and long terms. That is because contractors have skill sets that regular servicemembers do not have.
When large-scale fighting ends, security is more about deterrence and vigilance than kicking in doors. Since many contractors are former law enforcement officers, they know how to establish this presence. The right aura deters the bad guys and makes the good guys feel more secure.
In places like Afghanistan, rebuilding and security usually go hand in hand. The longer services are unavailable, the easier it is for the Taliban to gain a foothold. Once the kids are in school, there is a doctor nearby, and it is possible to go to work, militarism is much less attractive.
Furthermore, onsite security is much more difficult in Afghanistan. In the United States, an unarmed security guard, a 10’ fence, and some cameras are usually sufficient. But security in Afghanistan usually means armed contractors who can deal with almost anything.
As for long-term needs, contractors train soldiers and maintain equipment. Contractors know how to connect with recruits. They can overcome the language barrier and the cultural barrier. Furthermore, contractors know anti-insurgency techniques, and they know how to share them with others. Equipment maintenance includes things like drones and other sophisticated weapons. Back home, many contractors are military mechanics. So, they are well-suited for such jobs.
All these activities are risky. Training accidents and workplace accidents are almost as common as combat injuries. Additionally, in places like Afghanistan, there are no such things as front liens and rear areas. Everyone who is in-country is equally at risk, whether the wield jackhammers or rocket launchers.
When contractors get hurt, they are normally unable to work for at least several months. The Defense Base Act’s wage replacement benefit helps these families pay bills while the victim heals. There are several types of lost wage compensation:
- Temporary Total Disability: At least initially, most injured contractors cannot work at all. So, the Defense Base Act pays two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of the total disability.
- Temporary Partial Disability: As their physical therapy progresses, many contractors can return to work at least part time. To help fill the wage gap, the DBA pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new salaries.
- Permanent Total Disability: Severe combat injuries often leave victims completely disabled. They are still able to function, at least to an extent, but working again is out of the questions. Typically, the DBA offers annuity-type compensation in these cases.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Serious non-combat injuries often cause partial disabilities. For example, an injured shoulder might not completely heal or a permanent brain injury might affect the victim for life. Annuity-types compensation, albeit in a lesser amount, is usually available in these situations as well.
In addition to regular cash compensation, the Average Weekly Wage includes non-cash compensation, overtime, performance bonuses, and all other kinds of job-related income.
For more information about the Defense Base Act’s medical bill payment benefit, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.