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Is Visiting Afghanistan Safe Right Now| 2023

The land of Afghans was one of the most important connecting links between Western Asia and Europe. Once a melting pot of cultures, Afghanistan has much to offer to international travelers. 

However, in recent decades the country has been in the news for all the wrong reasons including terrorism and militancy. Here is what international travelers need to know about traveling to Afghanistan. 

Is Afghanistan Safe to Travel

It is not safe as of now. A landlocked country right at the heart of Asia, Afghanistan shares its boundary with Pakistan, Uzbekistan, China and Iran.

A third of the country was ruled by the Taliban, an Islamic extremist group, from 1996 to 2001. During the regime of Taliban, Afghanistan witnessed numerous infights and civil wars. The Taliban rule paved the way for the growth of Islamic extremism.

The regime also harbored al-Qaeda, a group which is reported to be responsible for the series of suicide attacks in various strategic locations in the US including the World Trade Center.

Following this attack on 11th September 2001, the US government and its NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies waged a war of self-defense in Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban.

In the years that followed this, the country witnessed relative peace and prosperity, a result of international financial and defense aid. 

The democratically-elected government of Afghanistan forged diplomatic ties with most foreign countries and opened its embassies across the world. 

Afghan missions issued short-term and long-term visas to foreigners for tourism, business and humanitarian works. 

However, Taliban took over the control of Afghanistan in 2021 following the withdrawal of American and NATO troops pushing the country into complete chaos. 

Foreign governments and the UN are yet to officially accept the current government formed by the Taliban and hence the country does not issue formal travel authorization to foreigners. This prevents international travel. 

To put it lightly, traveling to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is not recommended at present and most countries have placed it in the DO NOT TRAVEL list.

Traveling to Afghanistan is currently too dangerous due to high level of crimes including theft and kidnapping.

The country is witnessing a civil war and conflicts between warlords are very common.

Visiting the country can pose a fatal risk to the traveler’s life.    

The airports in the country are closed for commercial operations and most international airlines have suspended their flights.

Land crossings are illegal without a visa and are extremely risky. 

What is a DO NOT TRAVEL List?

It is a travel advisory issued by governments to their citizens warning them against traveling to a foreign country.

Most governments issue different categories of travel advisories to its citizens. For example, the US government issues four levels of travel advisories.

Level 1 asks its citizens to observe normal caution while visiting a foreign nation, while level 2 warns them to take increased precaution.

Travelers are requested to reconsider traveling to the level 3 category nations. 

Level 4 is the highest advisory. Traveling to level 4 category countries is prohibited. They are placed in the DO NOT TRAVEL list because of greater risks that can be life-threatening.

International travelers may not be able to get help from their governments in case of an emergency in such countries. 

Traveling to Afghanistan for Humanitarian Work
Afghanistan is reportedly facing acute humanitarian challenges. A majority of the population is struggling to meet their basic needs like food, medicine and housing. Women’s rights are severely restricted. However, foreigners are warned against traveling to that country for humanitarian work due to the high risk to their lives under the Taliban regime. The current regime does not issue visas to such travelers.

Unfortunately, humanitarian work that had gained momentum following the US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has largely been stopped.  The United Nations has said that humanitarian works can re-start only if there is a formal banking system in the country and girls’ and women’s rights are reinstated.

The aid works under the World Health Organization and World Food Program are currently underway to some extent. 

However, foreigners are warned against visiting the country for humanitarian work. It is impossible to get a travel authorization such as a visa as the Taliban does not have formally recognized diplomatic relations with any UN member country. 

A few countries like India have re-opened their embassies in Afghanistan. This is to provide humanitarian and medical assistance, especially in the global fight against COVID-19 pandemic.   

Many other countries are running rescue missions for Afghan citizens. Under the USCIS parole scheme, the US government is offering temporary visas to citizens of Afghanistan.

Priority is given to the close relatives and spouses of American citizens or permanent residents. For this visa, they have to apply through a US embassy or consulate. 

The US embassy in Afghanistan is closed as of now.

Afghan citizens who can make arrangements to travel to missions outside the country can apply there.  The visa will be issued based on the evaluation of consulate staff about the merit of the application.    

How to Get a Visa for Afghanistan? 

At present, it is almost impossible to get a visa for Afghanistan. The Taliban, an Islamic hardline group that is running the country, does not issue visas to foreigners. 

Their visa policy is unclear and it does not have any formal diplomatic relationship with foreign countries even though it has established its embassies in Russia, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan.

These nations too have not officially accepted the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.  

Earlier, foreigners who wished to visit the country for tourism, business and humanitarian work needed to apply for a visa at an Afghan diplomatic mission near to them. The previous government in the country did not issue any electronic travel authorization. 

Future of Afghan Tourism  

With the government of the United Arab Emirates reaching an agreement with the Taliban to start operations in three international airports in Afghanistan, travel may resume in the near future.

The Taliban is also in talks with several other countries to develop road networks to increase connectivity. 

However, traveling for tourism and business may not go back to the way it was a few years ago in near future. International travelers who wish to explore the country’s rich heritage and amazing cuisine may have to wait a little longer.  

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