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Cablegate: Travel Warning: Iraq

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 017899

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PTER ASEC IZ
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING: IRAQ

STATE 00017899 001.2 OF 003


1. The Department of State continues to warn U.S.
citizens of the risks inherent in travel to Iraq and
recommends against all but essential travel within the
country given the fluid security situation. Numerous
insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Although
Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)-led operations against these
groups continue, attacks against the ISF and U.S. forces
persist in many areas of the country. Turkish government
forces have carried out operations against elements of
the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (KGK, formerly Kurdistan
Worker's Party or PKK) located along Iraq's northern
border. Civilian air and road travel within Iraq remains
dangerous. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel
Warning dated June 15, 2009, to update the status of U.S.
military operations in Iraq, territorial control by Iraqi
authorities, and incidents along Iraqi borders.

----------------------------------------
Iraq Remains Dangerous and Unpredictable
----------------------------------------
2. While some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer
violent incidents than others in recent years, violence
and threats against U.S. citizens persist and no region
should be considered safe from dangerous conditions,
including explosions, kidnappings, and other terrorist
and criminal attacks. Attacks against military and
civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in
the International (or "Green") Zone and northern Iraq.
Methods of attack have included roadside improvised
explosive devices (IEDs), mortars and rockets, human- and
vehicle-borne IEDs, and shootings. Kidnappings still
occur; the most recent confirmed kidnapping of an
American citizen reported to the U.S. Embassy occurred in
January 2010 in Baghdad. While sectarian and terrorist
violence continues, it occurs at levels lower than in
previous years. U.S. Government personnel require
special permission and a protective security detail at
all times when traveling outside of secure facilities and
may be prohibited from traveling to certain areas of Iraq
based on prevailing security conditions. Detailed
security information is available at
http://iraq.usembassy.gov and at http://www.centcom.mil.

--------------------------------
Drawdown of U.S. Military Forces
--------------------------------
3. In mid-2009, U.S. military combat forces withdrew from
all major Iraqi cities, including Baghdad. Under current
plans, the United States will reduce the number of U.S.
military forces in Iraq and end combat operations there
by August 2010 and complete withdrawal of military forces
by the end of 2011.

--------------------------------------
Transportation to/from and within Iraq
--------------------------------------
4. Travelers choosing to utilize commercial carriers to
enter or depart Iraq should be aware that, although there
have been no recent attacks on civilian aircraft, the
potential threat still exists, as does a high risk to
road travelers as described above. U.S. Government
personnel, with limited exceptions, are generally
required to use U.S. military or other official aircraft
when entering or departing Iraq. There have been no
recent security-related incidents associated with
civilian airport operations. Embassy employees,
including those resident in northern Iraq, may seek
authorization, and under special limited circumstances,
obtain permission to use commercial airlines and civilian

STATE 00017899 002.2 OF 003


airports when entering or departing Iraq. Civilians,
including tourists, business people, and temporary
residents should recognize the risks associated with air
travel to Iraq and follow the security policies of their
agencies, companies and sponsors. All travelers to Iraq
should possess an Iraqi visa issued by the national
government. Entry permits issued in the northern Kurdish
region are not valid in other areas of Iraq. The Embassy
has received reports of American travelers arriving in
Iraq with properly issued Federal Iraq visas, but
nonetheless being denied entry into the country.

-------------
Northern Iraq
-------------
5. The security situation in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk
Governorates in northern Iraq has been more stable
relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but
violence persists. U.S. government personnel in northern
Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective
security detail when traveling outside of secure
facilities. Even though there have been fewer terrorist
attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in
Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk than in other parts of Iraq,
the security situation throughout the country remains
fluid. Sectarian violence associated with the status of
Kirkuk is likely to persist and insurgent groups continue
to operate across the north. While many parts of
northern Iraq have become more stable, some areas,
including the border areas with Ninewah, Salah-al-Din,
Diyala and Tamim Governorates, particularly those in and
around Kirkuk and Mosul, have experienced violence and
instability. Additionally, extensive unmarked minefields
remain along the international border. The Governments
of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military
operations against insurgent groups in the mountain
regions. These operations have included troop movements
and both aerial and artillery bombardments.

-------------------------------
International Zone Restrictions
-------------------------------
6. The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone
(IZ) in Baghdad. The IZ is a restricted access area. As
of June 30, 2009, Iraqi authorities assumed
responsibility for control of the IZ. Travelers to the
IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require
special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-
specific access badges.

7. The U.S. Government considers the potential threat to
U.S. Government personnel assigned to Iraq to be
sufficiently serious so as to require them to live and
work under strict security guidelines. All U.S.
government employees under the authority of the U.S.
Ambassador must travel in groups of two or more and carry
a working cell phone or radio when exiting the U.S.
Embassy compound.

8. Information received by the U.S. government indicates
that some terrorist or extremist groups continue to
target U.S. citizens for possible kidnappings.
Individuals residing and traveling within the
International Zone should continue to exercise good
personal safety precautions.

--------------------------------------------- -
Limited Emergency Support to American Citizens
--------------------------------------------- -
9. The U.S. Embassy provides limited visa services to the
general public and provides restricted emergency services
to U.S. citizens in Iraq. The ability of the U.S.
Embassy to provide services to Americans outside of

STATE 00017899 003.2 OF 003


Baghdad is particularly restricted given the security
environment. The United States does not maintain any
consulates in Iraq. American citizens who choose to
visit or reside in Iraq despite this Travel Warning are
urged to take responsibility for their own personal
security and belongings (including their U.S. passports),
avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations, and
inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq. All
Americans in Iraq, including those working on contract
for the U.S. Government, are urged to register with the
Embassy at the following website:
https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs. By
registering, American citizens make it easier for the
Embassy to provide updated security information or to
contact them in emergencies.

-------------------
Contact Information
-------------------
10. U.S. citizens may obtain the latest security
information or other information about Iraq by contacting
the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via
e-mail at BaghdadACS@state.gov, landline at U.S. dial 1-
240-553-0581 ext. 2998, or by accessing the U.S.
Embassy's website at http://iraq.usembassy.gov. The
after-hours emergency numbers are 011-964-770-443-2594
(from the U.S.) or 964-0770-443-2594 (within Iraq). As
cell phone service is unreliable in Iraq, emergency calls
may also be placed though the Department of State at 1-
888-407-4747.

11. Updated information on travel and security in Iraq
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 from other areas, a regular toll line at
1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult
the Country Specific Information for Iraq, as well as the
Worldwide Caution, both of which are available on the
Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at
http://travel.state.gov.


12. Minimize considered.
CLINTON

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