AFGHANISTAN

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Country Description: Afghanistan is a developing, Islamic country trying to emerge from a long period of civil war. High mountains and desert make for extremes of climate. Many roads are barely passable. Public transport and tourism facilities are minimal.

The Department of State warns all U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan. U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Afghanistan despite this warning should exercise extreme caution, particularly in those areas that have been recently or repeatedly contested or mark the dividing lines between competing armed groups. Intense military activity exists, especially north of Kabul. Westerners remain vulnerable to politically and criminally motivated attacks and violence, including robbery, kidnapping and hostage-taking. Land mines are still prevalent throughout the countryside. Close to 10,000,000 land mines and tons of unexploded ammunition pose a danger to all visitors. Travelers should also be aware that the Islamic Sharia law that is enforced in most of the country prohibits alcohol, video tapes, music, television and social activities between the sexes. All U.S. personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul were evacuated in 1989, and no diplomatic mission represents U.S. interests or provides consular services.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and visa are required. For further information, the traveler can contact the Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, 2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 234-3770/1; fax (202) 328-3516.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is extremely limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not valid. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proved useful. Information on health problems can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559 or on the Internet at http://www.cdc.gov.

Overflights: Because of safety concerns arising from the civil conflict in Afghanistan, all U.S. airlines and aircraft operators are prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration from overflying Afghanistan except for the Wakhan corridor in the far northeast. Factions in the civil conflict have issued warnings they would shoot down any airliner that ventured into airspace over territory they control without having acquired clearance from them. Many foreign air carriers continue to overfly Afghanistan on routes between Asia and Europe. American citizens who are flying between Asia and Europe should be aware of the risk of taking these flights.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability:  Significant military encounters, including aerial bombing, rocketing, and artillery shelling occur sporadically and unpredictably, particularly in the northern half of the country.

Information on Crime: Politically and criminally motivated attacks and violence, including robbery, kidnapping and hostage-taking still take place. Petty crime also exists. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, protecting personal security, and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to South Asia." They are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.

Judicial System: The predominant legal system in Afghanistan is Islamic Sharia law as interpreted by the Taliban movement and is enforced strictly by armed police. Laws include prohibitions on alcohol, photography, and possession of videotapes as well as social activity between the sexes that would be considered acceptable in other parts of the world. Judicial matters are in the hands of local Islamic judges, who levy punishments according to traditional practices, including amputation of hands and/or feet and public execution.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws and legal practices of the country in which they travel. Penalties for possession or use of or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict in Afghanistan, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and possible corporal punishments.

Registration/U.S. Embassy Location: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed indefinitely due to security conditions, and no country represents the United States in Afghanistan. The U.S. government is, therefore, unable to accord normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens there. U.S. citizens contemplating travel to Afghanistan are strongly advised to obtain updated information on security from the State Department at one of the following U.S. embassies in the region: Islamabad, New Delhi, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, Tashkent, or at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar. Individuals who have decided to proceed to Afghanistan should also register at one of these facilities. The nearest U.S. embassies and consulates are in Pakistan and Tajikistan. The telephone numbers for the U.S. embassies and consulates in the region are: Islamabad, Pakistan (92-51) 826-161 through 826-179; Peshawar, Pakistan (92-91) 279-801/2/3; Dushanbe, Tajikistan (7-3772) 21-0356/0360/0457; Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (7-3632) 35-00-45/46/42; Tashkent, Uzbekistan (7-3712) 771-407; New Delhi, India (91-11) 600-651.

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