Afghanistan Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Nov 19, 2015
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable, and the threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued on May 22, 2015.
The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Afghanistan), U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and foreign interests. Attacks may target official government convoys and compounds, including Afghan and U.S. government facilities, foreign embassies and military installations, as well as restaurants, hotels, airports, non-governmental organization (NGO) offices, international organizations, religious institutions, educational centers, foreign guest houses, and other commercial entities.
Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED). Extremists associated with various Taliban networks, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), and members of other armed opposition groups are active throughout the country. Violent and deadly clashes between insurgent groups and Afghan security forces have occurred throughout the country. On September 28, 2015, the Taliban attacked the provincial capital of Kunduz, causing as many as 100,000 residents to flee their homes. A strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time.
Kabul remains at high risk for militant attacks, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), direct and indirect fire, and suicide bombings. The same risks also exist in other major cities in Afghanistan, to include, but not limited to, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Lashkar Gah, Maimana, Ghazni, and Jalalabad. An ongoing risk of kidnapping and hostage taking exists throughout Afghanistan.
Militant attacks throughout the country continue, with many of these attacks specifically targeting U.S. and other foreign citizens and entities. Examples include the October 11, 2015 bombing of a Coalition convoy in Kabul using a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED), which wounded three Afghan civilians, the August 22 SVBIED attack on a convoy in Kabul that killed three U.S. citizens, and the August 17, 2015, kidnapping for ransom of a German citizen working for the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ).
Riots and civil disturbances can occur anywhere in Afghanistan, often without warning. U.S. citizens should avoid all rallies and demonstrations. Protests intended to be peaceful can become confrontational and escalate into violence at any point. The size of these demonstrations has ranged from as small as 20 to as large as 3,000 people. The issues that typically prompt demonstrations include grievances against the government or coalition forces, as well as spontaneous public expressions of social, political, and ethnic tensions.
U.S. citizens representing foreign interests in property or contract disputes – a common problem for foreign companies doing business in Afghanistan – have reported that local parties to the disputes have threatened their lives or held them or their employees captive under extrajudicial conditions while awaiting payouts or intervention by local authorities. U.S. citizens who find themselves in such situations should not assume that local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will be able to assist them in resolving such disputes or intervene on their behalf with Afghan officials.
The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Afghanistan sufficiently critical to require them to live and work under strict security restrictions. All locations outside the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities are considered off-limits to Embassy personnel unless there is a compelling government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be changed or adjusted at any time, without advance notice. The Embassy will regularly restrict or prohibit movements by its personnel, often on short notice, for reasons such as terrorist attacks, security threats, or demonstrations. Because of security concerns, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is also restricted, and requires prior approval from the Department of State.
The U.S. Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited, particularly for those persons outside of Kabul. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to limit nonessential travel within Afghanistan, formulate personal contingency plans, monitor the Embassy's website, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain the most current information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Enrollment in STEP makes it easier for the Embassy to contact U.S. citizens in case of an emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no safe, commercial alternatives exist. Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs. The lack of a valid U.S. passport and Afghan visa may hinder a U.S. citizen's ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy's ability to assist. U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and other security concerns. The U.S. government typically evacuates U.S. citizens to a safe haven, and travelers are responsible for making their own onward travel plans. U.S. citizens should not expect to be evacuated to the United States and should always maintain medevac insurance while living or traveling abroad in case they need emergency medical evacuation back to the United States, which can be a significant expense. For more information, see "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis."
The U.S. Embassy often receives threat information concerning U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Afghanistan. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Consular Affairs' website where current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings, and Country Specific Information for Afghanistan can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers in other countries, by calling a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).