Afghanistan Country Report
Although the National Unity Government remains politically dysfunctional, international funding is sufficient to ensure that the government remains viable during the next three years. The brief Taliban-Afghan government ceasefire in June 2018, coupled with US diplomatic pressure, increases the momentum for peace talks. Nevertheless, there is still formidable opposition from key leaders on both sides.
According to the United States, the Taliban control 59 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, and the government controls 229 and 119 districts are contested. The Taliban will also continue high-profile bombings and armed assaults against security forces and officials in urban centres, causing high levels of casualties. Despite an internal split within the Islamic State's Wilayat Khorasan affiliate, the group continues to conduct high-casualty suicide bombings and assaults, particularly in Kabul and Nangarhar province.
Insecurity, corruption, and lack of infrastructure remain the key obstacles to foreign investment in Afghanistan. There have been some improvements over 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 significant improvements to infrastructure are highly unlikely in the next two years due to financial and bureaucratic constraints – which severely impede project delivery – and the poor security environment. Labour strike risks will remain very low due to the lack of an organised labour movement, while bribery and corruption risks will remain very high.
Taliban insurgents will launch frequent attacks against government and foreign buildings, Afghan military and police outposts, as well as registration centres ahead of the October 2018 parliamentary election. Attacks are likely to involve suicide bombings, roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and vehicle-borne IEDs. Terrorist attacks orchestrated by the Taliban will continue to occur frequently in Kabul and across rural Afghanistan over the next year, particularly in the north, south, and east, with the aim of capturing a provincial capital. The Islamic State is increasingly targeting foreign military and diplomatic personnel, as well as Shia civilians and the Afghan security forces.
Violence in Afghanistan remains very high, with an average of 780 effective enemy attacks per month from June to November 2017, according to US forces. Although the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – backed by US air support and a residual NATO training mission – are able to recapture lost territory, it is highly unlikely that the force will be able to improve the security situation over the next year. In September 2017, the US increased troop levels from 11,000 to approximately 15,000, which will indirectly assist in stabilising the security environment but is unlikely to result in substantive improvements.
Protest risks are small compared with other security issues in Afghanistan, but large protests are likely to occur several times a year and have a moderate-to-low likelihood of becoming violent. Media reports that blame international forces for civilian casualties are likely to trigger protests, and political demonstrations are likely to increase ahead of the parliamentary elections in October 2018. Protests are likely in urban areas, particularly in Kabul, and will probably target government buildings.
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).
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.
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.
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.
There are no emergency services in the country.
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