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Travel Warning: Afghanistan

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Afghanistan today.  It reads as follows:

Afghanistan

December 01, 2011

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 March 8, 2011, to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security risks, including kidnapping and insurgent attacks.

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 U.S. and other Western nationals at any time. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and the al-Qa’ida terrorist network, as well as other groups hostile to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) military operations, remain active. Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of Afghan citizens and foreign visitors. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan is 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, with some areas, especially in the southeast, experiencing substantially increased levels of violence.There is an ongoing and increased risk to U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers of kidnapping and assassination throughout the country. In August 2011, two German aid workers were kidnapped while on a hiking trip in Parwan province; they were found dead a few weeks later. In September 2011, an American civilian working with the U.S. military in Kabul was kidnapped from a power plant by insurgents and later killed. Ten people, including three employees working for the UN Refugee Agency, were killed on October 31, 2011, in a complex suicide bombing attack outside a UN compound in Kandahar.

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. On April 1, 2011, following Friday prayers in Mazar-e-Sharif, a crowd of worshippers became incensed over reports of a Koran burning in the United States. Several Afghan protesters and United Nations foreign security staff died in the ensuing riot.

Kabul is also considered at high risk for militant attacks, including rocket attacks, vehicle borne IEDs, and suicide bombings. More than 50 such attacks were reported in Kabul from January to November 2011, and many additional attacks were thwarted by Afghan and coalition forces. Recent incidents include 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, including the U.S. Embassy and ISAF Headquarters. Insurgents have also targeted the offices, convoys, and individual implementing partners of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road) and the Kabul to Bagram Road are highly restricted for Embassy employees. In late October 2011, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into an armored NATO bus on a busy thoroughfare in Kabul, killing 17 people including U.S. citizen contractors working with the military.

Buildings or compounds that lack robust security measures in comparison to neighboring facilities may be viewed as targets of opportunity by insurgents. Three suicide bombers attacked a guesthouse used by foreigners in Kunduz Province on August 2, 2011, killing four Afghan security guards.

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 their 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 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 such as restaurants and hotels. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well. We encourage U.S. citizens to obtain the latest information by frequently consulting the Embassy’s security announcements 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 Kabul through 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 Consular Section can be reached at 93-(0)700-201-908; please direct routine consular correspondence to USConsulKabul@state.gov.

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 Internet 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, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.

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