Afghanistan Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Aug 23, 2013
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. The security threat to all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan remains critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Afghanistan issued on January 29, 2013, and reminds U.S. citizens of ongoing security risks, including kidnappings and insurgent attacks.
No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other Western nationals at any time. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the al-Qaida terrorist network, as well as other groups hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, remain active. Although Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of Afghan citizens and foreign visitors, the Afghan security apparatus in most major cities is robust and capable of responding to insurgent attacks. However, travel in all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security situation remains volatile and unpredictable throughout the country.
There is an ongoing and significant risk of kidnapping and assassination of U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) employees throughout the country. In May 2012, a British and a Kenyan aid worker, along with two Afghan counterparts, were kidnapped in Badakhshan Province while riding on horseback to deliver medical supplies to a remote village; they were freed 11 days later in a NATO rescue operation. In December 2012, a U.S. citizen working with an NGO was kidnapped in Kabul Province. Similarly, in January 2013, a French citizen working for an NGO was kidnapped in western Kabul by suspected criminal elements and held captive until April 2013.
Riots and incidents of civil disturbance can and do occur, often without warning. U.S. citizens should avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Approximately 20 demonstrations occurred in Kabul City during the first six months of 2013, one of which turned violent. The size of the demonstrations has ranged from as small as 50 individuals to as large as 2,500. The issues which typically prompt demonstrations include grievances against the government, land disputes, as well as social, political, and ethnic tensions. Insurgent elements including the Haqqani Network, Taliban and Taj Mir Jawad networks remain violently opposed to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and criminal organizations such as weapons and narco-traffickers undermine peace and stability.
Despite numerous interdiction operations by Afghan and coalition forces, Kabul City and its suburbs are also considered at high risk for militant attacks, including rocket attacks, vehicle-borne IEDs, direct-fire attacks, and suicide bombings. A number of such attacks were reported in Kabul City from January to June 2013, and many additional attacks were thwarted by Afghan and coalition forces. Since the beginning of 2013, insurgents have conducted 13 high profile attacks in Kabul City; these attacks have consisted of complex assaults, IED detonations, and suicide bombings. Insurgents continue to target various U.S. and Afghan government facilities in Kabul City, including the June 25, 2013 attack against a U.S. government facility adjacent to the Afghan Presidential Palace and U.S. Embassy.
Furthermore, insurgent attacks involving Westerners have included a suicide attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in June 2011 in which U.S. citizens were critically injured, and an August 2011 attack against the British Council. Insurgents also carried out a complex sustained attack against multiple targets in Kabul on September 13, 2011, which included the U.S. Embassy and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) headquarters, and again on April 15, 2012, targeting the U.S. and neighbouring embassies as well as ISAF headquarters and the Afghan Parliament.
Insurgents have also targeted the offices, convoys, and employees of international businesses. On May 2, 2012, insurgents with vehicle-borne explosives and suicide vests targeted Green Village, a compound on Jalalabad Road in Kabul that houses primarily international security contractors; several guards and local school children were killed as a result of explosions. On June 22, 2012, insurgents attacked Spozhmai Hotel west of Kabul City. This attack created a hostage situation which resulted in the deaths of a number of Afghan civilians.
Buildings or compounds that lack robust security measures in comparison to neighboring facilities may be viewed as targets of opportunity by insurgents. On May 24, 2013, insurgents conducted a complex attack against the International Organization of Migration (IOM) headquarters. During this attack insurgents occupied an adjacent building, and from an elevated position, fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on nearby buildings. This attack resulted in several deaths and wounded a number of security personnel, IOM staff, and Afghan civilians.
Ambushes, robberies, and violent crime can add to the insecurity in many areas of the country. U.S. citizens involved in property or business disputes -- a common legal problem in Afghanistan -- have reported that adversaries in the disputes have threatened their lives. U.S. citizens who find themselves in such situations should not assume that either local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will be able to assist them in resolving these disputes.
From time to time, depending on current security conditions, the U.S. Embassy places certain areas off limits to its personnel. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations, and locations popular with the expatriate community such as restaurants, hotels, and guesthouses. We encourage U.S. citizens to obtain the latest travel advisory by frequently consulting the Embassy's travel advisory website.
The U.S. Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital. U.S. citizens who choose to visit or remain in Afghanistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to enroll with the U.S. Embassy in Kabulthrough the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy. Enrollment makes it easier for the Embassy to contact U.S. citizens in case of an 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 or Airport Road) in Kabul. The Embassy phone numbers are 93-(0)700-108-001 and 93-(0)700-108-002. For after-hours, life-or-limb emergencies involving U.S. citizens, the Embassy Duty Officer can be reached at 93-(0)700-108-001; please direct routine consular correspondence to [email protected]
Current 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. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). 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 website. You can also stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which also contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.