Safety and security
Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition in terms of politics, economy and security. Avoid large public gatherings and follow the local media for information on the security situation. It is difficult to categorise the country as a whole due to its diverse geography, ethnic, tribal and religious differences, and the ongoing insurgency. Large parts of the east, south east and south of the country are affected by conflict. Other areas have seen steady improvements in security, but are still prone to terrorist attacks and a high crime rate.
Road travel is highly dangerous. Insurgents have set up false vehicle checkpoints from which violent attacks have been launched. In addition to the threat from terrorism and kidnapping, there is also a continuing criminal threat from car-jacking and robbery.
Public transport is dangerous. Taxis and long distance buses are often poorly maintained, uninsured and driven by unqualified drivers. Privately hired transport is often driven by uninsured, unqualified drivers. You should carry out long distance journeys by air where possible.
If you travel by road you should only travel in secure transport with close protection, using reputable local drivers and guides. Make sure doors are locked and windows closed. You should consider strongly the use of armoured vehicles. Most road surfaces are in a very poor condition. The overall standard of driving is poor and most local drivers are uninsured. Accidents may lead to confrontation and threatening behaviour.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
There have been a number of serious attacks on both western and Afghan NGOs and vehicles belonging to them, in which people have been killed or injured. NGO workers have been kidnapped near their places of work. Most attacks continue to occur in the east and south of Afghanistan with a recent increase in activity in the central areas. The International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO) www.ngosafety.org issues regular security updates for NGOs.
All airlines from Afghanistan have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because Afghanistan is unable to ensure that its airlines meet international safety standards. FCO staff are advised to use carriers which aren’t subject to the EU operating ban.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network. The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
Flying to Dubai and then transferring is the most common route into Afghanistan. It’s illegal to transit the United Arab Emirates carrying unlicensed personal protection equipment. This includes, but is not limited to, body armour (including ballistic vests), weapon holsters and handcuffs. Other specialist technical equipment such as satellite phones, listening and recording devices, powerful cameras and binoculars, while freely available in the UK, may also require licences. Persons found carrying any such items without a licence may be subject to conviction resulting in imprisonment and substantial monetary fines in accordance with Emirati law.
Crime is a serious concern, particularly in rural areas. Foreigners have been the victims of violent attacks, including armed robbery and rape. Don’t display any obvious signs of wealth, or carry large sums of money. Don’t travel alone, especially on foot. Take particular care after dark.
Harassment of foreign women is not unusual including uninvited physical contact and unwanted attention.
Advice to business
Specific guidance for companies seeking to do business in Afghanistan can be found on the Department for International Trade (DIT) website. DIT are also able to put you in touch with companies operating in Afghanistan who offer security services. For more information see Operating in High Risk Environments: advice for business.
If you’re travelling around Afghanistan, including Kabul, you should seek professional security advice and continually reassess your personal security. The British Embassy in Kabul operates under strict security protocols and always uses armoured vehicles; staff receive regular security briefings to enable them to carry out their work in as safe an environment as possible.
Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Afghanistan are subject to regular threats. The British Embassy doesn’t allow official visitors to stay in a hotel overnight and has placed restaurants and other venues off limits to staff. Make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly.
Only travel with reputable local guides and to fully protected workplaces. Take the greatest possible care and vary your routines. Don’t publicise your travel, including on social media. If possible, maintain radio or telephone communications to report your movements. Avoid any protests, demonstrations or large gatherings.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all or all but essential travel to different parts of the country according to provincial region:
the FCO advise against all travel to the Surobi district of Kabul province
the FCO advise against all but essential travel to the city of Kabul and the other remaining districts of Kabul province
If you’re travelling in Kabul, take particular care on Airport road, Jalalabad road and Darulaman road. Avoid travelling on Jalalabad and Darulaman roads during commuter or other busy times (around 6am to 8am, 9am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm local time), when traffic can be heaviest and the risk of an attack against government and western people or interests is most likely. Avoid travel between cities at night time. Avoid travelling along Airport road except for essential movements as attacks are likely throughout the day.
There’s an ongoing threat from high-profile, large-scale attacks in Kabul. In recent months there have been a number of significant attacks in the capital, including:
27 January 2018 – at least 105 people were killed and hundreds injured as a result of a large vehicle borne explosive device which detonated in a crowded area of downtown Kabul.
20 January 2018 – six gunmen carried out an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel killing around 20 including a number of foreign nationals.
28 December 2017 – two explosions took place targetting the Afghan Voice News Agency in the vicinity of the Tabyan Social Centre. 41 people died in this attack with more than 80 injured.
31 October 2017 – a suicide bomber successfully detonated close to the British Embassy killing a number of civilians.
20 October 2017 - an attack on Kabul’s Imam Zamum mosque killed at least 49 mostly Shia worshippers.
27 September 2017 – around 45 rounds of mortar and rocket fire struck Hamid Karzai International Airport causing the temporary closure of airspace.
31 May 2017 – at least 80 people were killed and several hundred injured in a large car bomb attack in an area of the city close to many foreign embassies
8 March 2017 – around 50 people were killed after an attack on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul. The local Daesh affiliate, ISKP, claimed responsibility for the attack.
1 March 2017 – a complex attack involving a number of attackers resulted in the death of 5 civilians and 5 insurgents.
7 February 2017 - a suicide bombing at the Afghan Supreme Court compound killed around 20, with over 45 injured.
10 January 2017 – 2 explosions took place near the Parliament buildings in Kabul. The first was believed to be a body-borne suicide attack, followed shortly by a car bomb. The attacks took place at rush-hour killing about 50 and injuring more than 100.
the FCO advise against all travel to the provinces of Faryab, Jowzjan, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Badakhshan, the Sayad district and Sar-e-pul city in Sar-e-pul province and the following districts of Balkh province: Chaharbolak, Chamtal, Daulat Abad/Dawalatabad, Hairatan Port, Kaldar and Shortipa/Shur Tapa/Shor Tepah
the FCO advise against all but essential travel to Samangan province and the remainder of Balkh and Sar-e-Pul provinces
On 8 February 2017, six Afghan staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were shot and killed in Jowzjan Province, Afghanistan. Two further staff members travelling in the same convoy are so far unaccounted for.
On 10 November 2016 there was an attack on the German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province. At least 4 civilians were killed and 120 injured. The Taliban were reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack.
There have been a number of attacks against aid workers and military vehicles resulting in deaths and injuries, and there are ongoing military operations throughout the north. The FCO advice against all travel to Badakhshan includes travel to or climbing and trekking within the Wakhan Corridor.
the FCO advise against all travel to Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Wardak and Paktya provinces and most districts of Parwan province
the FCO advise against all but essential travel to Bamiyan, Panjshir and the Shekh Ali and Surkhi Parsa districts of Parwan province
The eastern region has been extremely volatile for some time, with almost daily suicide and roadside bomb attacks, shootings and rocket attacks. The region close to the Pakistani border is extremely dangerous with a high number of insurgents operating freely. On 17 October 2017, four Vehicle Borne explosive devices and twelve insurgents struck the Paktia Police Headquarters, killing 100 ANDSF personnel and injuring over 400.
There are regular, large military operations in this region. There have been numerous daily attacks against the Security Forces and US-led coalition forces. There are also daily incidents of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), suicide and rocket attacks, and direct fire attacks on security forces patrols, checkpoints and bases as well as on the local population.
On 24 January 2018, insurgents attacked the offices of Save the Children in Jalalabad. Up to 13 people were injured in this incident.
- the FCO advise against all travel to Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces
On 18 October 2017, 58 soldiers were killed and 28 wounded at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Maiwand district, Kandahar.
On 10 January 2017, an explosion took place in the Provincial Governor’s compound in Kandahar. The attack left eleven people dead, including the Deputy Provincial Governor, five Emirati diplomats, an Afghan MP and an Afghan official. An attacker also detonated a suicide vest in a guest house in Lashkar Gah used by the provincial National Security Directorate (NDS). Eight people were reportedly killed, including four members of the NDS.
the FCO advise against all travel to Badghis province, Farah province, the Shindand district of Herat province,the Du Layna/Dolina and Pasaband districts of Ghor province and the Gizab/Gesab and Kajran districts of Daikundi province
the FCO advise against all but essential travel to Dai Kundi, Ghor and the remaining districts of Herat and Daikundi provinces
The security situation throughout Afghanistan remains uncertain, and could change rapidly. You should monitor media reporting and make sure you have robust contingency plans in place. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines.
On 4 August 2016 there was an attack on a convoy of vehicles carrying tourists (including 8 British nationals) in Herat. The group were on a tour organised by a company based in the UK. The Taliban claimed the attack on the vehicle, which involved small arms fire and an explosive device. The convoy was being escorted by the Afghan military. Five tourists and the driver were injured in the attack.
There have been roadside bombs, suicide attacks, rocket attacks and criminal kidnappings throughout the western provinces and increased lawlessness in Western Ghor. There is little security infrastructure in Dai Kundi and westerners have been kidnapped there.