State Department Warns of Continued Instability, Terror Threats in Afghanistan

Afghanistan security forces at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul / AP
June 22, 2016

The State Department on Wednesday warned U.S. citizens not to travel to Afghanistan because of persisting instability and terror and insurgent groups targeting Americans in the war-torn country.

The travel alert, which supersedes a previous warning issued last November, comes days after a Pentagon assessment detailed how the Taliban and extremist groups such as the Khorasan Province, an ISIS affiliate, have continued to dominate the security environment in Afghanistan.

"Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices," the warning states.

"Attacks may also target official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and compounds, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, restaurants, hotels, airports, and educational centers."

The State Department warned of extremists associated with the Taliban, Khorasan Province, and other opposition groups that have launched attacks in Afghanistan.

"The Taliban and its affiliates routinely attack Afghan, Coalition, and U.S. targets with little regard for civilian casualties," the warning states.

The Taliban launched a suicide attack near Bagram Airfield in December, killing six NATO service members, all of whom were American. A suicide bomber also targeted a NATO convoy in the Parwan province last month, an attack that wounded two civilians.

More recently, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 14 people on Monday.

The Taliban has made gains in Afghanistan as the United States and other allies of the country have scaled back troops in the region, according to the Pentagon report delivered to Congress this month. The Taliban has also been killing increased numbers of civilians in high-profile attacks on urban centers and has targeted several key provinces with attacks.

The security environment has led the State Department to restrict travel to the country by U.S. government employees.

"Due to security concerns, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires prior approval from the Department of State," the travel alert states. "Furthermore, U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul except the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities unless there is a compelling government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk."

The State Department also cautioned that the U.S. embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to American citizens in Afghanistan is "severely limited," especially outside the Afghan capital.

"U.S. citizens are encouraged to defer non-essential travel within Afghanistan and note that evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and other security concerns," the warning states.

The warning comes as the Obama administration is said to be rethinking reducing the level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of this year. Obama, who announced an end to combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, has been pressed by past U.S. commanders to keep the troop level steady through the rest of his presidency.

Published under: Afghanistan