Safety and Security
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan and states clearly that the security situation remains critical. 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. Insurgent elements including the Haqqani Network, Taliban and Taj Mir Jawad networks remain violently opposed to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Additionally, criminal organizations such as weapons and narco-traffickers undermine peace and stability. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan, and often, to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults, or kidnappings. Violence has spiked during the first six months of 2013, and despite numerous interdiction operations by Afghan and coalition forces, insurgents have conducted thirteen 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 the U.S. Embassy.
There is an elevated risk of kidnapping and assassinations targeting U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) employees throughout the country. In May 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. In May 2013, insurgents conducted a complex attack against the office of International Organization of Migration (IOM) headquarters. Several 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.
Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political and social tensions. U.S. citizens should avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. The country faces a difficult period in the near term and U.S. citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. There is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance. Terrorists continue to use roadside or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Private U.S. citizens should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns.
The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes, and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Similarly, U.S. citizens involved in business disputes -- a common legal problem in Afghanistan -- have reported that adversaries in the disputes have threatened detention, arrest, imprisonment, and at times, have successfully carried out the threats. 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.
Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated. The few roads that exist are mostly in poor condition. Cell phone signals are irregular and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or larger cities exist. U.S. citizens traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may be completely unable to communicate their difficulties to the outside world.
U.S. citizens should be aware that in March 2013, an Afghan government-controlled security force, the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), assumed authority over the provision of most commercial security services in Afghanistan from private security companies. In August 2010, President Karzai issued Presidential Decree 62 ordering the disbandment of private security companies in Afghanistan. As a result, all security guard services being performed by private security companies, with the exception of diplomatic missions, have been transferred to the APPF. Only embassies and other accredited diplomatic missions are permitted to continue using private security companies after March 2013.
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Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security – Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.