Flag afghanistan Afghanistan Government travel warning

Very High Overall Risk Score: 5

Crime

Criminal activity including serious violent crime is widespread in Afghanistan. Criminals operate in groups and will not hesitate to use their weapons if one attempt to resist. Theft is rampant in Afghanistan. While security conditions are comparatively better in Kabul due to the heavier presence of International and local security forces, the city’s security condition is still critical for foreign visitors; Kabul remains one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The Taliban is constantly attempting to destabilize the security situation further and drive foreign nations out of the country.

Being perceived as wealthy, foreigners visitors are targeted for theft and armed robberies. Foreigners’ residences are increasingly at risk of burglaries and home invasions. While crime is a serious matter, it remains a secondary concern due to the ongoing insurgency that plagues the country.

Though the use of drugs is forbidden in Islam, and the government has officially banned every aspect of the drug trade, many poor local farmers switched to poppy farming as profits from the illegal crop --used for opium production-- is substantially higher than those of legal crops. Afghanistan counts to over three quarters of the world's opium production.

Corruption related to the drug industry has extended to all aspects of society, ranging from local police to the highest levels of federal government, and many insurgent groups fund their activities via the opium trade. As Afghanistan tries to put decades of chaos and combat behind it and move toward rebuilding itself into a stable country, the growing drug trade and the corruption it is spawning threaten to make moot the ongoing debates over such basic issues as law and governance. Regardless of its association with the drug trade, corruption presents a large barrier to long-term recovery. Bribes were most often paid to police, judges and politicians and members of international organizations and NGOs.

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Terrorism

Afghan authorities have claimed that remnants of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network have been coordinating their activities with other hardline forces, including supporters of the wanted former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani network.

The security situation has steadily worsened since the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has ceased combat operations and was disbanded in December 2014. The number of attacks throughout Afghanistan indicates that the Taliban are regrouping and gaining a foothold in areas from which they were chased out of by coalition forces and were handed over to Afghan forces with their departure. 

Attacks including IEDs, car bomb and suicide bombers have all increased. Fearing that the Afghan military will collapse with the withdrawal of the international force, U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to request by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to slow the pace of the withdrawal of U.S. troops and leave near 10,000 American troops in the country until the end of 2015. The force, combined of mainly Special Forces troops, will allow the US to continue its counter terrorism operations in the country. Ghani is also trying to open up channels for peace talks with the Taliban.

While mass violence remains the most frequent, assassinations are also increasingly popular. Assassinations claimed the lives of senior government officials, governors, police chiefs and intelligence operatives working for the National Directorate of Security, the brother of former President Hamid Karzai and pro-government tribal elders. Most of the victims had a reputation for efficiency within the administration.

Soft targets are preferred, but even the more protected targets such as military installations and government buildings face a high risk. Taliban forces have reputedly attacked high-security U.S. bases in Bagram and Kandahar.

According to a recent UN report, 3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 were injured during 2014 marking a 22% increase from 2013. The rise in civilian casualty numbers has been attributed to the surge in clashes between government forces and the armed insurgents manly the Taliban. With international forces largely withdrawn from the provinces, insurgents have taken the fight back to urban centers using indiscriminate weapons such as mortars and rockets. As of February 2015 the number of civilian killed since the 2001 US- led coalition is estimated at 21,000.

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Civil Unrest

Incidents of civil unrest, such as protests and demonstrations over domestic, regional and international developments regularly occur throughout Afghanistan, some of which turned violent and resulted in deaths, injuries and material damage to both private and public properties.

Many of the protests are organized predominantly in response to various incidents linked to the ongoing insurgency and often result in marches and gatherings around foreign diplomatic missions or government buildings. Protesters have also blocked major roadways and attacked military personnel or convoys in the past.

Religious and ethnic violence remains common and tends to focus on the split between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. Attacks on the minority Shiite sect tend to increase around Muslim holidays such as the holy month of Ramadan and Shiite holidays such as the Ashura celebrations.

As in many Muslim countries, anti-American/Western sentiments among some of the local populace raise the possibility of spontaneous acts of violence by individuals against foreign visitors or expatriates residing in the country. These sentiments tend to intensified upon release of anti-Muslim cartoon or other publications and incidents perceived as offensive to Islam. High unemployment levels have also led to civil disturbances. All large protest gatherings or demonstrations should be avoided due to the potential for violence.

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Kidnapping

Kidnapping is a serious problem throughout Afghanistan, with both foreign visitors and locals targeted. Taliban militants, which are usually behind the kidnappings of foreigners, would not hesitate to attack an armed convey in order to carry out an abduction. In many cases political demands are the motivation behind the abduction rather than financial gains. In such cases the threat of execution for political purposes is very high. However, as any visitor to the country is virtually wealthy when compared to local Afghanis, all foreign visitors regardless of their nationality are potential kidnapping targets for ransom.

As most locals deal directly with the kidnappers or through tribal elder mediators and never involve the authorities, kidnapping statistics are virtually nonsexist and tend to be much higher than those reported by governmental officials and security institutions.

Due to the lawlessness in the southern parts of the country, kidnap for ransom gangs are operating without interference, targeting defenseless people, and in many cases children. The problem was worst in the northern province of Mazar-e Sharif, the northeastern province of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan and in the Southern province of Kandahar.

Increasing number of robberies and kidnapping for ransom are also reported in the Western Farah and Nimroz provinces were organized gangs are operating freely due to lack of security forces presence. While authorities are blaming Taliban operatives for the crimes, residents claim that the abductors have nothing to do with the insurgents and the crimes are carried out by criminals. The 2014 withdrawal of the international forces from the country is likely to result in upsurge of crime including kidnapping for ransom.

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Extortion

The Taliban Islamist movement is increasingly financed by criminal activities including drug manufacturing, illegal precious stones mining, extortion of local business owners and kidnapping for ransom.

In recent years the Taliban integrated criminal networks into its ranks, which are running illegal marble mines, taxing the production and export of narcotics and are involved in kidnappings for ransom. According to Afghan officials and businessmen affected by Taliban extortion, the militants’ penetration of the natural resources sector is so pervasive that almost the entire ruby, emerald and lapis lazuli (ultramarine) mine owners now paying extortion fees.

The Taliban reach is deep that even illegal smugglers of precious stones are paying extortion fees. According to some analysts, extortion has become such a lucrative business that Taliban commanders who run the rings are unlikely to respond to calls by their leaders to quit the trade, even for peace.

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Wrongful Detention

Though hardly effecting foreigners, wrongful detention of local nationals is systemic and occurs in a variety of forms throughout the country by police officers, prosecutors, judges, and detention center officials.

The number of wrongful detentions is reportedly so high that it creates overcrowding in the country’s detention centers.

Wrongful detention cases often results in detainees’ families’ socio-economic hardship due to income and social standing loss. The widespread arbitrary detentions erode the detainees’ confidence in the government and in many cases radicalize the people who later join the insurgency or criminal gangs.

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