UK authorities issue travel warning against Afghanistan

News about: Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Flag of Afghanistan
Still current at: 19 March 2012
Updated: 19 March 2012
No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary (removal of reference to British mentors and advisers). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to specific regions of Afghanistan and against all but essential travel to other specific regions of Afghanistan.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)





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  • Following a shooting incident on 11 March involving a member of the US military in Kandahar, the potential throughout Afghanistan for protests and attacks against ISAF targets or other sites of Western interest remains high. We continue to advise against all travel to Kandahar.

  • Protests occurred throughout Afghanistan in response to the burning of Islamic religious material at Bagram air base by ISAF forces on 21 February 2012.

  • Afghanistan has a high threat of terrorism and specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. No part of Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts. Please see the Safety and Security Terrorism section below for details of recent significant attacks.

  • High-profile attacks within the Central Region highlights the dangers of becoming caught up in an insurgent attack within relatively secure areas of Afghanistan. As insurgents attempt to destabilise the ongoing transition of security to Afghan National Security Forces it is likely that these attacks will continue, in particular an increase is expected in those targeting foreign and Afghan national interests.

  • You should be vigilant and take extra care, particularly in and around landmarks and places where large public crowds can gather. Foreign embassies, government ministries, religious and military establishments, as well as hotels, shops and restaurants used by the international community have been attacked in the past and it is likely that there will be further such attacks.

  • There is a heightened threat of roadside bombs and ambush outside Kabul City. You should maintain a heightened level of vigilance at all times, observing the strictest of security measures and avoid any unnecessary travel. Travellers should also consider making their own security arrangements for the duration of their time in Afghanistan.

  • The kidnap threat throughout the country remains high, particularly against local nationals, but also against the international community.

  • The British Embassy in Kabul is able to offer only limited consular assistance and does not issue visas.You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

  • If you do travel to Afghanistan you should have adequate and continuous professional close security arrangements and ensure they are regularly reviewed.

  • An Afghan government-controlled security force, the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), will take over provision of most commercial security services in Afghanistan from private security companies by 20 March 2012. This follows President Karzai’s Presidential Decree 62, of August 2010, ordering the disbandment of private security companies in Afghanistan. Only embassies and other accredited diplomatic missions will be permitted to continue using private security companies after March 2013.

  • We advise the following restrictions to travel according to provincial region:


    Kabul:

  • We advise against all travel to the Surobi, Paghman, Musayhi, Khak-e Jabbar and Chahar Asyab Districts of Kabul province.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Kabul.


    Northern Afghanistan:


  • We advise against all travel to Balkh, Kunduz, Badakhshan and the Baghlan-e Jadid District of Baghlan.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, Sari Pul and the remainder of Baghlan.


    Eastern Afghanistan:


  • We advise against all travel to Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Wardak and Paktya.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Bamiyan, Parwan and Panjshir.


    Southern Afghanistan:

  • We advise against all travel to Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul.


    Western Afghanistan:


  • We advise against all travel to Badghis and Farah, and the Shindand and Gozarah Districts of Herat province.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Dai Kundi, Ghor and remaining districts in Herat.

Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence
You should be aware of the continuing high threat from terrorism within Afghanistan. Threats, specific or otherwise, are reported on an almost daily basis. Terrorists and insurgents conduct frequent and widespread lethal attacks against British and Coalition armed forces, political and civilian targets.

We continue to receive reports which indicate specific terrorist threats against visibly British and western institutions, organisations and individuals. Threats also apply to those involved in work with the United Nations as well as those working in the humanitarian and reconstruction fields. Attacks throughout Afghanistan have increased in tempo towards the end of 2011, these have included bombs (roadside and other), suicide bombs (either on foot or by vehicle), indirect fire (rockets and mortars), direct fire (shootings and rocket propelled grenades), kidnappings and violent crime.

You should also remain constantly aware of the risks posed by the large amounts of unexploded bombs and land mines (both anti-tank and anti-personnel) throughout the country.

You should also be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners. See our “Terrorism Abroad” page.

Additional vigilance and care should be taken, particularly in and around landmark locations and places where large public crowds can gather. Hotels (used by the Government of Afghanistan and western nationals), ministries, religious and military establishments have been attacked in the past and there is always the possibility that there may be further such attacks. The British Embassy does not currently allow official visitors to stay in any hotels overnight, and has placed less well protected restaurants off limits to staff.

Recent significant attacks include:

  • On 06 December a suicide bomber attacked the Abu Fazil Mosque in the Murad Khani district of Kabul close to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance. The mosque saw large crowds gathering on Marham Ashura, a holiday celebrated particularly by the Shi’a, at the time of the attack. It is reported that over 50 were killed and 150 injured. A second attack was carried out against Shi’a in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balk Province, resulting in four deaths and 17 injured.
  • On 31 Oct insurgents carried out an attack against the UNHCR compound and an Afghan NGO compound Kandahar City which included an IED attack and small arms fire. The ANP report that four Afghan civilian guards were killed during the incident.
  • On 29 Oct, one insurgent carried out a suicide attack against an ISAF convoy on the Darulaman Road in Kabul. Reporting indicated that 13 passengers, including two British civilian contractors, were killed by the blast and another seven passers-by were also killed or injured. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Given the similar attacks on 18 May 2010 and against an ANSF vehicle on 12 Nov 2010 in the same area, it is likely that insurgents will attempt similar attacks in the same area.
  • On 27 Oct, four insurgents targeted the main Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) with small arms fire and RPG-fire. One IED was detonated near the installation and a secondary IED was also found in the area during the aftermath. An insurgent spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Taliban. The attack was the sixth insurgent operation against a PRT site in Afghanistan during 2011, indicating that insurgents may be actively seeking to target PRTs and the reconstruction process.
  • On 15 October the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Panjshir Province was attacked by insurgents. This attack is the first of its kind in Panjshir and should be seen as a warning against any form of complacency about security and the threat posed by insurgent groups anywhere in Afghanistan.
  • Please click here to see details of further recent significant attacks in Afghanistan.



Safety and Security - Kidnap
The risk of being kidnapped throughout Afghanistan remains a constant and real threat. You are advised to exercise the utmost care, vary routines and not set regular patterns of movement whilst travelling. You should take professional security advice whilst in country. Outside of Kabul you should consider the use of permanent armed protection and armoured vehicles.

The possible kidnapping of two German nationals and a US civilian in the Kabul area highlights the dangers of robbery and forced abduction within Afghanistan. Whilst kidnap of local nationals is an ongoing concern, the recent events indicate an increase in the activity in relation to foreign nationals. Further abductions may occur over the coming months therefore individuals must ensure that they have adequate security provision when visiting Afghanistan and maintain their personal security regime at all times.

You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Since 2001, a number of international people have been kidnapped, both by terrorists and criminals. A documentary film-maker was kidnapped in May 2008 near the Pakistan border (subsequently released in Pakistan), a journalist was kidnapped in September 2009 in Kunduz (rescued after being held captive for a few days) and an aid worker was kidnapped in Kunar in September 2010 and killed during a rescue operation on 09 October.

See our victims of crime abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
If you remain in Afghanistan, particularly outside Kabul, you should continue to reassess your situation. You should exercise the utmost care and vary your routines. You should always ensure car doors are locked and windows closed, and if possible maintain radio, or telephone, communications to report your movements. We advise you to avoid any protests, demonstrations and large gatherings. Visitors/workers are advised not to set regular patterns of movement whilst travelling in the city and to ensure they take professional security advice whilst in country.

You should avoid regular visits to public places frequented by foreigners, including hotels, restaurants, shops and market places, especially at times of day when they are particularly busy and congested. The British Embassy does not currently allow official visitors to stay in any hotels overnight, and has placed less well protected restaurants off limits to staff. We recommend that you regularly check this travel advice for information on the security situation in Afghanistan before undertaking any travel. In addition we advise that you register with our LOCATE service. This will allow you to receive regular advice and information on specific and urgent threats.

If, despite this advice, you travel outside Kabul, you should only do so with reputable local guides and only to fully protected workplaces. You should consider permanent armed protection and use armoured vehicles. You should be aware that even these precautions cannot guarantee your safety. The threat from kidnapping, suicide bombs, roadside bombs, indirect fire and ambush throughout Afghanistan remains.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel

Road travel remains highly dangerous. Deployments of false vehicle checkpoints from which violent attacks have been mounted are methods insurgents have used in the past. In addition to the threat from terrorism/ kidnapping, there is also a continuing criminal threat from car-jacking and robbery.

If travelling by road you should only travel in secure transport with close protection, using reputable local drivers and guides. In many areas you should consider the use of armoured vehicles. Most road surfaces are in a very poor condition. The overall standard of driving is poor and most local drivers are uninsured. Accidents may lead to a confrontation and threatening behaviour.

See our driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) issues regular security updates for NGOs. Please consult their website for further information.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - In Kabul


  • We advise against all travel to the Surobi, Paghman, Musayhi, Khak-e Jabbar and Chahar Asyab Districts of Kabul province.
  • We advise against all but essential travel to Kabul City itself and the remaining districts in the province.

There are regular, indiscriminate rocket and bomb attacks in the city and targeted attacks against ISAF patrols and establishments. Reports continue to indicate that further attacks are likely against Western targets in central Kabul, and particularly along the Jalalabad Road, the Airport Road, the Wardak road and in the vicinity of Kabul airport. Hotels and other guest-houses where foreigners stay continue to be likely targets. There are specific threats against the major Ministry and Government buildings. There have been indirect fire attacks against Kabul International Airport and further attacks cannot be ruled out.

Continuing attacks, such as that on the ‘Finest’ supermarket on 28 Janurary 2011, demonstrate that the threat of attacks in Kabul remains extant.

You should exercise extreme caution if you intend to use the Jalalabad and Airport roads and you should avoid travelling at night and between the hours of 07:00 and 09:00 if at all possible.

Please see the Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence section for details of recent significant attacks.

Safety and Security - Regional Travel
For any trip to Afghanistan you should carefully consider not only your final destination, but your entry and exit points and any Provinces you might be travelling through. You should carefully consider how each leg of your trip affects the safety of your overall journey.

There have been a number of serious attacks on both western and Afghan Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and on vehicles belonging to them, in which a number of people have been killed or injured. Most attacks continue to occur in the East and South of Afghanistan with a recent increase in activity in the central areas, but there have also been sporadic, but serious, incidents in other regions. A high threat from kidnapping to employees of NGOs and foreign companies throughout Afghanistan remains.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Northern Afghanistan

Provinces covered in this section are - Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, Sari Pul and Takhar.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, Sari Pul andthe remainder of Baghlan.
  • We advise against all travel to Balkh, Kunduz, Badakhshan and Baghram-e Jidad District of Baghlan.

There have been a number of attacks against aid workers and military vehicles resulting in deaths and injuries. There are ongoing military operations throughout the Northern Region.

We continue to advise against all travel to Badakhshan, including travelling to or climbing and trekking within the Wakhan Corridor, given the significant security risks in the region and the Wakhan Corridor's geographical isolation.

Please see the Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence section for details of recent significant attacks.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Eastern Afghanistan
Provinces covered in this section are Bamiyan, Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Panjshir, Parwan, Paktya and Wardak.

  • We advise against all travel to Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Wardak and Paktya.
  • We advise against all but essential travel to Bamiyan and Parwan.


The Eastern Region has been extremely volatile for some time, with almost daily suicide and roadside bomb attacks, shootings and rocket attacks. The region close to the Pakistani border is extremely dangerous with a high number of insurgents operating freely.

There are regular, large military operations in this region. There have been numerous daily attacks against the Security Forces and US-led coalition forces throughout Eastern Afghanistan. There are also daily incidents of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), suicide and rocket attacks, and direct fire attacks on security forces patrols, checkpoints and bases as well as on the local population.

Please see the Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence section for details of recent significant attacks.


Safety and Security - Local Travel - Southern Afghanistan
Provinces covered in this section are Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan, and Zabul.

  • We advise against all travel to Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Southern Afghanistan is unpredictable and extremely volatile. There are regular military operations throughout the region and there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents ranging from shootings and roadside bombs to suicide bombings that have targeted civilians and the military. Suicide and roadside bomb attacks in Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz continue.

There has also been a series of attacks on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat road in Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz (and Farah) provinces and in Uruzgan province. Nimroz has seen an increasing number of suicide attacks.

There are so many incidents on a daily basis in the South of Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand province (due to ongoing military operations), that we note only a few recent significant incidents which are more pertinent to the wider civilian community.

Please see the Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence section for details of recent significant attacks.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Western Afghanistan
Provinces covered in this section are Badghis, Dai Kundi, Farah, Ghor and Herat.

  • We advise against all travel to Badghis, Farah and the Shindand and Gozarah Districts of Herat province.
  • We advise against all but essential travel to Dai Kundi, Ghor and Herat.


The security situation in Western Afghanistan has become worse over the last year. There have been roadside bombs, suicide attacks, rocket attacks and criminal kidnappings throughout these provinces and increased lawlessness in Western Ghor. There is little security infrastructure in Dai Kundi and westerners have been kidnapped there.

Please see the Safety and Security - Terrorism and Sectarian Violence section for details of recent significant attacks.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
Airlines operating to the EU are required to meet the safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The EU Aviation Security Committee (ASC) blacklisted all Afghan airlines flying to the EU on 23 November 2010 due to the poor record of its civil aviation oversight system. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) employees in Afghanistan have been advised not to travel on airlines blacklisted by the EU ASC.

Some other airlines that operate in and out of Afghanistan may not meet international safety standards.

On 17 May 2010, a Pamir Airways flight from Kunduz to Kabul crashed in the mountainous Shakardara area north of Kabul. The plane appears to have hit a mountain top during some unseasonably poor weather and in poor visibility. All 44 personnel on board were killed, including three British nationals.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Transiting UAE
Flying to Dubai and then transferring is the most common route into Afghanistan. It is illegal to transit the United Arab Emirates carrying unlicensed personal protection equipment. This includes, but is not limited to, body armour (including ballistic vests), weapon holsters and handcuffs. Other specialist technical equipment such as satellite phones, listening and recording devices, powerful cameras and binoculars, while freely available in the UK, may also require licenses. Persons found carrying any such items without a license may be subject to conviction resulting in imprisonment and substantial monetary fines in accordance with Emirati law.

Further information should be sought from the UAE Embassy in London as detailed on our UAE Travel Advice.

Safety and Security - Crime

Crime is a serious countrywide concern, particularly in rural areas. Foreigners have been the victims of violent attacks, including armed robbery and rape. Do not display any obvious signs of affluence, or carry large sums of money. Do not travel alone, especially on foot. Ensure someone knows where you are at all times and have at least one means of communication, ideally with back up. Exercise caution, particularly after dark.

See our victims of crime abroad page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Afghanistan is a country undergoing a major transition in terms of politics, economy and security. It is difficult to categorise the country as a whole due to its diverse geography, combined with ethnic, tribal and religious differences set in the context of an ongoing insurgency. Large parts of the East, South East and South of the country are affected by conflict. Other areas have seen steady improvements in security, but are still prone to terrorist attacks and a high crime rate, including Kabul City. There are also parts of the country where security is better, terrorist attacks are far less likely and crime rates are lower, such as Panjshir Valley, Bamyan and the Wakhan Corridor.

Country Profile: Afghanistan

Local laws and customs

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

See our travelling during Ramadan page.

Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan. You may not seek to convert Muslims to other faiths. The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol and pork products are forbidden.

Photography of government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed. Avoid photographing local people without their agreement.

See our your trip page.

Entry Requirements - Visas
British nationals must obtain a visa before travelling to Afghanistan. For further information on visas contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London. Visas are not issued on arrival in country. Afghan Embassy in London website.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter Afghanistan. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Afghanistan.


Entry Requirements - Travelling with children

Women travelling alone with children should be aware that documentary evidence of parental responsibility may be required to enter Afghanistan or before permitting children to leave the country. The FCO does not allow our officers based in Afghanistan to be accompanied by their partners or children. For further information on exactly what is required at immigration please contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London.

Only very limited medical facilities are available in Afghanistan. Ensure that you have all the prescription medication you need during your visit, as supplies are unlikely to be available locally.

Diarrhoeal diseases and other gastrointestinal infections are common causes of ill health, becoming worse in the hotter months.

The dry dusty conditions in summer and winter can cause irritation to eyes, throat, nose and skin.

Respiratory tuberculosis is common in the Afghan population.

Malaria is a hazard except in the high mountainous regions of the country and in winter.

Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See HIV and AIDS page.

Seek medical advice before travelling to Afghanistan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our travel health page.

Health - Leishmaniasis
The Ministry of Public Health in the Herat Provincial Public Health Office have confirmed reports that there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the province during October 2010. Leishmaniasis can be prevented by avoidance of the sandfly insect vector with the use of protective clothing, repellents and netting. If you suspect you have contracted Leishmaniasis, you should seek specialist medical attention immediately.

Further information about Leishmaniasis can be found on the WHO and NaTHNaC websites:

http://www.who.int/leishmaniasis/en/
http://www.nathnac.org/travel/factsheets/leishmaniasis.htm
http://www.nathnac.org/travel/misc/travellers_mos.htm

Health - Avian Influenza

Since March 13, 2007 the World Organisation for Animal Health confirmed reports of 11 outbreaks of HN51 Avian Influenza (bird flu) across three provinces of Afghanistan (Nangarhar, Kabul, and Kunar). The authorities are taking measures to control the disease, including restricting livestock movement in affected areas. No human infections have been reported.

The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low, provided you avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. You should also ensure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked. You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.

For more information on Avian Flu and other diseases please follow see the World Health Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Natural disasters

Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone. More information on natural disasters is available from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs you should follow the advice of local authorities. Make sure you know the address and telephone number of the British Embassy in Kabul in the event of an emergency; this number can be found in our contacts section.

General - Insurance
You should get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all activities you want to undertake. In the event of a serious accident or illness an evacuation by air ambulance may be required, so it is essential that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See our travel insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Money
Carry sufficient cash in US Dollars for your visit because credit cards are not accepted. Some ATMs in Kabul dispense dollars as well as the local currency, Afghanis. Banks are closed on Fridays, but there are ATMs at the Intercontinental Hotel, Supreme supermarket and various locations in Wazir Akbar Khan and elsewhere. ATMs are located at military camps, but unless you have an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pass you will not be able to enter. Travellers' cheques are not widely accepted and it can take a fortnight for them to clear.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance in an emergency.

General - Consular Assistance
You should register with the British Embassy in Kabul (britishembassy.kabul@fco.gov.uk) but be aware that the Embassy is able to provide only limited consular assistance. It does not issue passports, though in an emergency, a single page/single journey travel document can be provided. Make sure you have plenty of spare pages in your passport as it will fill up with visas and entry stamps quickly. Replacement passports can be issued by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in the UK or the British High Commission in Islamabad. The application process takes at least 4 weeks. The Embassy in Kabul does not issue visas. Visa applications should be made through our missions in Dubai, New Delhi or through Gerry's/Fedex bureaux in Pakistan. Before applying please contact the British Embassy in Kabul for information on restrictions affecting visa applications.

General - Consular Assistance - Statistics
20 British nationals required consular assistance in Afghanistan in the period 01 April 2010 - 31 March 2011 for the following types of incident: six deaths; three hospitalisations; and six arrests, for a variety of offences.

Source: UK Department of Foreign Affairs Date: 19-Mar-2012 18:57:21