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Country Reports

Afghanistan Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The US and the Taliban in February 2020 formally signed an agreement for the withdrawal of US and coalition soldiers from Afghanistan, triggering an initial withdrawal of 5,000 soldiers in five months with all but seven US air bases in Afghanistan reportedly being closed. The remaining bases – located in Bagram, Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Herat – will continue to host foreign troops until a planned full withdrawal in 14 months.Although broader fighting will continue, the Taliban will likely maintain its current policy of reducing its targeting of air bases with a foreign presence, staging attacks in urban areas (including the capital Kabul), or staging offensives to capture provincial capitals to facilitate the peace process. More broadly, the US-Taliban agreement is likely to lead to a marked reduction in Taliban intent to target foreigners. A breakdown in intra-Afghan talks would likely trigger a resumption of Taliban attacks against Afghan government and military targets in urban areas.President Ashraf Ghani won re-election in February 2020, but the result was rejected by Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who also announced the formation of a parallel government. The parallel government, however, is unlikely to gain meaningful political traction given that Ghani’s election victory has not been opposed by the US government, which remains the principal financial and security backer of the Kabul administration. Should Abdullah’s allies retain their support for the parallel government, there will be an increasing risk of an extended political crisis that undermines the peace process with the Taliban. Afghanistan possesses an estimated USD3 trillion in mineral deposits, but instability, corruption, and inadequate infrastructure restrict economic development. Modest improvements during the past decade – including the expansion of the mobile network and more international carriers flying regularly into Kabul – have been concentrated on the capital.
Last update: March 4, 2020

Operational Outlook

Insecurity, corruption, and lack of infrastructure are key obstacles to economic development in Afghanistan. There have been some improvements during the past decade – for example in telecommunications through the expansion of the mobile network, and civil aviation, with a greater number of international carriers flying into Kabul regularly. However, further major improvements to infrastructure are very unlikely over the next year given extremely limited institutional capacity, rampant corruption, and the poor security environment. Officials at all levels of government are likely to demand arbitrary payments to facilitate business activity. There is no organised labour movement in the country given the persistent civil war.

Last update: January 28, 2020

Terrorism

Extreme

Taliban insurgents employ suicide bombings, roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and vehicle-borne IEDs, mainly targeting Afghan security forces and government officials. Insurgents carry out insider attacks several times per year, infiltrating foreign and Afghan military bases – or coercing enlisted Afghans – to detonate a suicide vest or shoot soldiers. Several major Taliban ground assaults are likely in rural Afghanistan over the next year, particularly in the north and south of the country, aiming to capture a provincial capital. The Islamic State is targeting foreign military and diplomatic personnel, as well as Shia civilians and the Afghan security forces with large IED attacks.

Last update: January 28, 2020

Crime

Criminal networks in Afghanistan are wealthy and influential, and often overlap with militant elements, creating a complex array of non-state armed groups. Corrupt government and law-enforcement officials take bribes to allow drug traffickers to act with impunity, and buying key government positions is commonplace. These systems of political protection enable a small number of key trafficking cartels to control a large proportion of the opium economy. Criminal gangs also engage in kidnapping for ransom, particularly in Kabul.

Last update: January 28, 2020

War Risks

Neither the Kabul government nor the Taliban are likely to achieve a decisive military victory, although the Taliban is in the ascendancy, posing a constant threat to major urban areas. US-Taliban negotiations resumed in December 2019, increasing the likelihood of a finalised US withdrawal agreement in 2020 that would probably also included a localised reduction in violence, including in Kabul and Parwan. However, violence is unlikely to subside significantly even if progress is made, as the Taliban is unwilling to agree to a broad ceasefire, and intra-Afghan talks – the next stage of negotiations – are likely to be challenging.

Last update: December 14, 2019

Social Stability

High

Although the ongoing insurgency generally deters protests, several large protests are likely to occur over the next year and small protests of less than 100 people will occur almost monthly. The disputed September 2019 presidential election, for which final results are still pending, will likely trigger protests as candidates attempt to pressure election authorities. Protests would be likely primarily in Kabul as well as in Afghanistan's northern provinces; these are likely to take place around government property and will entail a high risk of violence, including exchanges of small-arms fire with security forces and rival supporters.

Last update: February 1, 2020

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Afghanistan. However, the government of Afghanistan requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary). NB: you may need to show proof of polio vaccination to exit the country.

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Afghanistan is a very mountainous country with a significant risk of earthquakes.

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit Badakhshan province (southeast, Pram region) in October 2015, causing over 400 deaths and injuring some 2500 people.

Avalanches and snowstorms are frequent in the winter months and cause dozens of deaths every year. In February 2016, around 200 people were killed in a series of avalanches in the northeast (Salang and Panjshir regions).

Devastating floods and mudslides are also regularly reported; in April 2016, around 50 people were killed following torrential rains and floods in northern Baghlan and Takhar provinces.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Severe

Transportation infrastructure (by road and air) in the country is severely underdeveloped and travel carries its own inherent risks. The poor state of roads, high crime rates (attacks, extortion, kidnapping, illegal vehicle checkpoints, etc.), and the ever-growing insurrection make highway travel extremely risky in both the countryside as well as on the outskirts of cities. Road travel outside urban areas should only be conducted on a case-by-case basis following an adequate risk assessment. Flying within Afghanistan is not necessarily safe either; Afghan airlines have notoriously lax safety and security standards and none of the domestic companies, including Ariana, Safi, Pamir, and Kam Air, are allowed to operate in European Union airspace for this reason.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Afghanistan's climate is continental, with hot and dry summers (35°C to 40°C) and harsh and snowy winters, particularly at high elevations (with temperatures reaching -40°C). Precipitation is the most abundant in the months of March and April.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 93

There are no emergency services in the country.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019