Travel Warning – Afghanistan April 04, 2007

Published by Chris Harvey April 4, 2007

United States Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520

April 04, 2007

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 June 22, 2006.

The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is limited. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qa’ida network, and other groups hostile to the Afghan and U.S. governments, remain active. NATO-led military operations continue, with the heavy involvement of U.S. forces. 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. 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.

Attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests have continued since June 2006. The number of attacks in the south and southwestern areas of the country continues to increase as a result of insurgent and drug-related activity. There were more than 130 suicide bomber and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) attacks throughout the country in 2006. Kabul was particularly hard hit by militant attacks, such as several detonations of a remote-controlled IED and VBIED on Jalalabad Road, a suicide bomber attack upon a U.S. military convoy near Massoud Circle and the U.S. Embassy compound, a body-borne IED detonation against an ISAF convoy traveling to Kabul International Airport, and a magnetic bomb explosion in the vicinity of the Intercontinental Hotel in western Kabul. These incidents resulted in many deaths and injuries of U.S. and coalition personnel and local civilians.

Incidents have occurred with higher frequency on the Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road) since June 2006. Because of an increase in information over the past several months about potential attacks on this road, its use is highly restricted for Embassy employees and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is curtailed completely.

Since mid-2006 foreigners throughout the country continued to be targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings, whether motivated by terrorism or criminality. A Pakistani construction contractor in Zabul province was kidnapped and a Colombian NGO employee in Wardak province disappeared; neither has been found. Two German journalists were kidnapped and killed while traveling between Baghlan and Bamiyan provinces. An Italian journalist was abducted from a public bus traveling between Lashkar Gah and Kandahar and held by gunmen for three weeks. Two Pakistani journalists were kidnapped in Helmand province and held for six days. Two French citizens traveling in a taxi on the main highway between Kandahar and Kabul were victims of an attempted abduction.

Riots and incidents of civil disturbance also have occurred several times since the beginning of 2006, and the risk remains that such episodes may happen at any time with no 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. In December, several armed men dressed as Afghan National Police officers set up illegal checkpoints within the district of Surobi, in eastern Kabul on Jalalabad Road. The perpetrators robbed several drivers and shot and killed a truck driver. 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 calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or 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 devises 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 such. 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 in 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 Consular Information Sheet for Afghanistan and the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.

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