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Cablegate: Travel Warning - Afghanistan

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 096940

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC ASEC OTRA PTER PREL AF
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING - AFGHANISTAN

1. This Travel Warning provides updated information on
the security situation in Afghanistan. The security
threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan remains
critical. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel
Warning for Afghanistan issued February 6, 2008.

2. The Department of State continues to strongly warn
U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. 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 American and
other Western nationals at any time. Remnants of the
former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qa'ida network,
and other groups hostile to NATO-led military operations
remain active. There is an on-going threat to kidnap and
assassinate U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental
Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. Afghan
authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and
ensure the security of citizens and visitors. Travel in
all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe due to military
operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry among
political and tribal groups, and the possibility of
terrorist attacks, including attacks using vehicular or
other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security
environment remains volatile and unpredictable.

3. Kabul, in particular has seen a rise in militant
attacks, including rocket attacks, vehicle borne IEDs, and
suicide bombings. The number of attacks in the south and
southwestern areas of the country continues to be high as
a result of insurgent and drug-related activity, but no
part of the country is immune from attacks. Over 100
attacks were reported in Kabul over the past year,
although many additional attacks were thwarted by Afghan
and coalition forces. An additional 4,400 attacks
occurred nationwide during the same timeframe.

4. Incidents have occurred with some frequency on the
Kabul-Jalalabad Road (commonly called Jalalabad Road).
The road's use is highly restricted for Embassy employees
and, if the security situation warrants, sometimes is
curtailed completely.

5. Foreigners throughout the country continue to be
targeted for violent attacks and kidnappings, whether
motivated by terrorism or criminal activity. In January,
gunmen attacked the Serena Hotel and killed eight people,
including an American contractor and a Norwegian
journalist. In April, an assassination attempt against
Afghan President Karzai showed the continued desire of the
insurgency to destabilize the Afghan government. The July
2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in downtown Kabul, near
many western embassies and Afghan Government institutions,
demonstrated the ability of the insurgents to undertake
assaults within Kabul itself. Rocket fire and rocket
propelled grenade (RPG) attacks have occurred with
increasing frequency. In August, three female western
non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, along with
their male Afghan driver, were gunned down as they
traveled south of Kabul. An American NGO worker and her
driver were kidnapped in Kandahar in January. Other
Americans were kidnapped in Afghanistan in February and
August 2008.

6. Riots and incidents of civil disturbance can and do
occur, often without warning. American citizens should
avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations
intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and
escalate into violence.


7. Carjackings, robberies, and violent crime remain a
problem. American citizens involved in property disputes
-- a common legal problem -- have reported that their
adversaries in the disputes have threatened their lives.
Americans who find themselves in such situations cannot
assume that either local law enforcement or the U.S.
Embassy will be able to assist them.

8. 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. Private U.S.
citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as
well and may obtain the latest information by consulting
the embassy website below.

9. The United States 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 register with the U.S. Embassy through the
State Department's travel registration website,
(https://travelregistration.state.gov) and to obtain
updated information on travel and security within
Afghanistan. Americans without Internet access may
register directly with the U.S. Embassy. Registering
makes it easier for the Embassy to contact Americans in
case of 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
(Airport Road), Kabul. The phone number is +93-70-108-001
or +93-70-108-002; the Consular Section can be reached for
after-hours emergencies at +93-70-201-908. The Embassy
website is http://afghanistan.usembassy.gov.

10. Updated 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. 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 at http://travel.state.gov.

11. Minimize considered.
RICE

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