Iraq Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Jun 15, 2009
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the dangers inherent in travel to Iraq and recommends against all but essential travel in country given the fluid security situation. Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)-led military operations continue, and attacks persist against the ISF and U.S. forces in many areas of the country. Turkish government forces have carried out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Worker's Party or PKK) located along Iraq's northern border. This Travel Warning warns U.S. citizens of the current security situation and reiterates the dangers of the use of civilian aircraft and of road travel within Iraq. This replaces the Travel Warning of June 13, 2008, to provide an update on security incidents and additional concerns about travel within Iraq.
Iraq Remains Dangerous and Unpredictable
While the security environment has shown significant improvement over the past year, Iraq remains dangerous and unpredictable. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or "Green") Zone. Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mortars and rockets, and human- and vehicle-borne IEDs. Kidnappings still occur; the most recent confirmed kidnapping of an American citizen reported to the U.S. Embassy occurred during July 2008 in Nassariya. In addition to terrorist and criminal attacks, sectarian violence occurs often. U.S. Government personnel require special permission and a security detail at all times when traveling outside of secure facilities and are prohibited from traveling to certain areas of Iraq depending on prevailing security conditions. Detailed security information is available on the Embassy's web site at http://iraq.usembassy.gov and at http://www.centcom.mil.
Transportation to/from and within Iraq
Travelers choosing to utilize commercial carriers to enter or depart Iraq should be aware that, although there have been no recent attacks on civilian aircraft, the potential threat still exists, as does the high risk to road transportation as described above. U.S. Government personnel, with limited exceptions, are generally required to use U.S. military or other official aircraft when entering or departing Iraq. There have been no recent security-related incidents associated with civilian airport operations. Embassy employees, including those resident in northern Iraq, may seek authorization, and under special limited circumstances, have obtained permission to use commercial airlines and civilian airports when entering or departing Iraq. Civilians, including tourists, business people, and temporary residents should recognize the risks associated with air travel to Iraq and must be guided by the security policies of their agencies, companies and sponsors.
The security situation in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk Governorates in northern Iraq has been relatively more stable than the rest of Iraq in recent years, but violence persists and conditions could deteriorate quickly. Even though there have been fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains fluid. Violence associated with the status of Kirkuk is likely to continue, at least within Kirkuk. Insurgent groups continue to operate across the north. In 2008, multiple incidents occurred in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk involving IEDs, rocket and mortar fire, vehicle bombs, and shootings, though none resulted in U.S. casualties. While many parts of northern Iraq have become more stable, Mosul continues to experience intense violence and instability.
International Zone Restrictions
The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The IZ is a restricted access area. The U.S. Government considers the potential threat to U.S. Government personnel assigned to Iraq to be sufficiently serious so as to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines.
Limited Emergency Support to American Citizens
The U.S. Embassy provides limited visa services to the general public and provides restricted emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq, particularly those located outside of Baghdad. American citizens who choose to visit or reside in Iraq despite this Travel Warning are urged to take responsibility for their own personal security and belongings (including their U.S. passports), avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations, and to inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq. All Americans in Iraq are asked to register with the Embassy at the following website: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs.
American citizens may obtain the latest security information or other information about Iraq by contacting the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via landline at 1-240-553-0581, via e-mail to [email protected], or by accessing the U.S. Embassy's website at http://iraq.usembassy.gov. The after-hours numbers in cases of extreme emergency are 011-964-770-443-2594 (from the US) or 964 0770-443-2594(within Iraq).
Updated information on travel and security in Iraq 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 Iraq, as well as the Worldwide Caution, both of which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at http://travel.state.gov/.