February 06, 2008
This Travel Warning provides updated information on the security situation in Afghanistan. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued April 4, 2007.
The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. No part of Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against American and other western nationals at any time. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qa'ida network, and other groups hostile to NATO-led military operations continue, with the heavy involvement of U.S. forces. There is an on-going threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the possibility of terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security environment remains volatile and unpredictable.
Terrorist attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests continue. Kabul in particular has seen a rise in militant attacks, including rocket attacks, vehicle borne IEDs, and suicide bombings. The number of attacks in the south and southwestern areas of the country continues to be high as a result of insurgent and drug-related activity, but no part of the country is immune from attacks. The country's most lethal suicide attack occurred in Baghlan Province in November 2007, killing more than 70 people.
More than 70 attacks were reported in Kabul between April and December 2007. These included repeated incidents at or near Kabul International Airport, suicide bombings, persistent rocket attacks on vehicle convoys, and IEDs on many of the major roadways. These incidents resulted in many deaths and injuries of U.S. and coalition personnel and local civilians.
Incidents have occurred with some frequency on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road) since June 2006. The road's use is highly restricted for Embassy employees and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is curtailed completely.
Foreigners throughout the country continued to be targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings, whether motivated by terrorism or criminality. An American NGO worker and her driver were kidnapped on January 26 in Kandahar. On January 14, gunmen attacked the Serena Hotel and killed at least eight people, including an American contractor and a Norwegian journalist. An employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture was killed in an attack in Ghazni province in October 2007. A Bangladeshi aid worker was abducted in Logar Province, located south of Kabul, and held for three months from September to December 2007. An Afghan-American businessman was kidnapped in Kabul in September. Several German citizens were also kidnapped in Afghanistan last year, including a German woman kidnapped in Kabul while eating at a restaurant in September. In July 2007, twenty-three South Korean aid workers were kidnapped in Ghazni, two of whom were later killed.
Riots and incidents of civil disturbance can and do occur, often without warning. American citizens should avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.
Carjackings, robberies, and violent crime remain a problem. American citizens involved in property disputes -- a common legal problem -- have reported that their adversaries in the disputes have threatened their lives. Americans who find themselves in such situations cannot assume that either local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will be able to assist them.
Official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not permitted to have family members reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time depending on current security conditions, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel, and public areas popular with the expatriate community. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by consulting the embassy website below. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devices or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.
The United States Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital. Afghan authorities also can provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens facing difficulties. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal safety, security and health needs and are expected to assume primary responsibility for their own well-being. They are also encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. Registering makes it easier for the Embassy to contact Americans in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Great Masood Road between Radio Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health (the road is also known as Bebe Mahro (Airport Road), Kabul. The phone number is +93-70-108-001 or +93-70-108-002; the Consular Section can be reached for after-hours emergencies at +93-70-201-908. The Embassy website is http://afghanistan.usembassy.gov.
Updated information on travel and security in Afghanistan may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Afghanistan and the current Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.