Embassy Travel Warnings: Afghanistan

Afghanistan: August, 2002: I had known that it was next to impossible to even get into Afghanistan as an American because of the extreme danger associated with acts of violence toward Americans following the bombings and air strikes by the Americans and their coalition. But I was also confident that if Project C.U.R.E. had the clearance and approval of the United Nations it would probably be safe to proceed under their direction.  

I also knew that the Afghan embassy in Tashkent would probably not issue a visa to an American to go into Mazar-e-Sharif if there was an eminent possibility for an international incident. But, of course, there was never any real assurance of safety where all the men folks were carrying automatic weapons and rocket launchers around as just a way of life. 

As I was considering the possibility of my traveling on into Afghanistan, I received the following travel warning released by the United States Department of State regarding any travel into Afghanistan by any American. 

The American Embassy in Tashkent
Afghanistan - Travel Warning
July 3, 2002

This Travel Warning notes the growing number of attacks against
humanitarian workers in Northern Afghanistan and continued security
concerns. The security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan
remains high.
This Travel Warning supersedes that of February 28, 2002. 
The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel
to Afghanistan. The ability of Afghan authorities to maintain order and ensure the security of citizens and visitors is very limited. Remnants
of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist Al-Qaida network, as
well as criminal elements, remain active in the country. U.S.-led
military operations continue. Travel in all areas of Afghanistan, including
the capital Kabul, is unsafe due to military operations, landmines, 
banditry, armed rivalry among political and tribal groups, and the
possibility of terrorist attacks. Several foreign journalists have died
covering the current situation in Afghanistan, including four murdered
near Sarabui in November 2001. Several humanitarian assistance workers, 
including Americans, have been assaulted and/or killed in the last month in
the northern area of Afghanistan. The security environment remains
volatile and unpredictable in Kabul and the countryside. On June 18, 
an unidentified group launched rockets within the city, and several
rockets landed in the vicinity of the Embassy. As stated in the
current Worldwide Caution, the Department of State has received
reports that American citizens may be targeted for kidnapping or other
terrorist actions. 
An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of un- 
exploded ordnance are scattered throughout the countryside and
alongside roads posing a danger to travelers. Some areas of the
country are facing food shortages. There is little infrastructure, 
and public services are extremely limited. Afghan authorities have
imposed curfews in some areas. Due to a growing number of
attacks against United Nations (UN) and private humanitarian workers
and non-governmental organizations in the northern areas of
Afghanistan in and around the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the U.S. 
Government warns American citizens, including those with experience
in the area, against traveling to or residing in the Mazar area. Those
currently in the Mazar area should review their security arrangements, 
contact U.S. military forces in the region to register their presence, 
and make preparations to deport.

The brightest spot of the whole trip was that Anna Marie would be traveling with me from Denver to Frankfurt and to Tashkent. Then she would return to Denver via Frankfurt and Washington, D.C. as I proceeded on to South Africa and Zimbabwe. Should I go into Afghanistan she would remain in Tashkent while I was gone. The risk would be too great for her to travel to Afghanistan. 

Another interesting twist to the trip was that I had decided to take with me to Uzbekistan Project C.U.R.E.’s Denver’s city director, Mr. Jason Corley. It was time that I should take him on a training trip to instruct him on how to perform a needs assessment study. He would not go on to Africa, but Uzbekistan would be the perfect learning situation, and if the plans materialized for an Afghanistan entry, I would see if he could also go. He would be one of a very small handful of Americans who could say he had been in Afghanistan following September 11, 2001. 

Next Week: Into Afghanistan via Tashkent Uzbekistan  

© Dr. James W. Jackson  

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