Afghanistan Travel Warning
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 December 1, 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-Qaida 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.
There is an ongoing and increased risk of kidnapping and assassination of U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) employees 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,a U.S. citizen 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. 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 10 days later in a NATO rescue operation.
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. Following the unintentional mishandling of Korans by U.S. service members at Bagram Air Force base on February 21, 2012, violent demonstrations occurred in several locations throughout Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of two U.S. service members during a protest outside of a military base in Nangarhar Province. Two additional U.S. service members were killed inside Kabul’s Ministry of Interior during a shooting that was likely attributable to the mishandling of Korans.
Kabul and its suburbs are also considered at high risk for militant attacks, including rocket attacks, vehicle-borne IEDs, direct-fire attacks and suicide bombings. More than 18 such attacks were reported in Kabul City from January to June 2012, 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, which included the U.S. Embassy and ISAF headquarters, and again on April 15, 2012, targeting the U.S. and neighbouring embassies as well as ISAF headquarters and the Afghan Parliament. Dozens of Afghans and one U.S. citizen lost their lives in suicide bombings in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif on December 6, 2011 (the Ashura holiday). 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. 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 at the gates of the compound as a result of explosions. In late October 2011, asuicide 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. On June 22, 2012, insurgents attacked Spozhmai Hotel west of Kabul City. This attack resulted in the deaths of a number of Afghan civilians, and others being taken hostage. No U.S. citizens were involved in this incident.
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 travel advisory website.
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.