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Preface Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:21 PM

Afghanistan is a landlocked country about the size of Texas. Because of its geographic location, it has served as a crossroads for traders and conquerors from all points on the compass, and its people reflect the diversity resulting from these major migrations and invasions. Afghanistan's recorded history begins about 2000 B.C. and traces of its history can still be seen in its ancient cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-I-Sharif, and Herat. Although the country has been ruled by many different invaders, including Darius, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane, the Afghan people remain staunchly independent and proud

Afghanistan's recent history has been marked by war and civil unrest. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979, but was forced to withdraw 10 years later by mujahidin forces supported by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. When the Communist-sponsored regime in Kabul finally collapsed in 1992, fighting broke out between the various mujahidin factions. Factions vying for territory and resources gave rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban. With foreign backing, the Taliban seized power in 1996, controlling much of the country outside of Northern Alliance strongholds in the northeast. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. and its allies, together with the Northern Alliance, drove out the Taliban. Since then, the country has been going through a transitional phase as it seeks to restore its institutions and infrastructure with the assistance of the international community.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:18 PM

Afghanistan is a landlocked country about the size of Texas. Because of its geographic location, it has served as a crossroads for traders and conquerors from all points on the compass, and its people reflect the diversity resulting from these major migrations and invasions. Afghanistan's recorded history begins about 2000 B.C. and traces of its history can still be seen in its ancient cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-I-Sharif, and Herat. Although the country has been ruled by many different invaders, including Darius, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane, the Afghan people remain staunchly independent and proud

Afghanistan's recent history has been marked by war and civil unrest. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979, but was forced to withdraw 10 years later by mujahidin forces supported by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others. When the Communist-sponsored regime in Kabul finally collapsed in 1992, fighting broke our between the various mujahidin factions. Factions vying for territory and resources gave rise to a state of warlordism that eventually spawned the Taliban. With foreign backing, the Taliban seized power in 1996, controlling much of the country outside of Northern Alliance strongholds in the northeast. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. and its allies, together with the Northern Alliance, drove out the Taliban. Since then, the country has been going through a transitional phase as it seeks to restore its institutions and infrastructure with the assistance of the international community.

Afghanistan, a country of about 260,000 square miles, is bounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Takikistan on the east and south by Pakistan, on the west by Iran and on the extreme northeast by China. Afghanistan's geography consists of irrigated land, small but fertile river valleys, deep gorges, deserts, high plateaus, and snow-covered mountains. The eastern portion of the country is divided by the towering mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush and Pamirs, with peaks rising about 24,000 feet.

The principal rivers drain to the southwest into the Helmand and Arghandab Valleys and then into a desolate, marshy area on the Afghan Iranian border called Seistan. Other rivers, including the Kabul River, flow southeast into the Indut River. The Amu Darya (or Oxus of ancient times) forms a large part of the northern boundary with the Central Asian republics.

Afghanistan's climate compromises a cold, snowy winter and hot, dry summer. Extreme temperature changes occur from night to day, season to season, and from place to place. During summer in Kabul (altitude 5,800 feet) the temperature may be 50° F at sunrise but reach 100° F by noon. In the Jalalabad Plains (1,800 feet and 90 miles from Kabul) and southwestern parts of the country, summer temperatures can reach 115° F.

The chief characteristic of Afghanistan's climate is a blue cloudless sky with over 300 days of sunshine yearly. Even during the winter, skies usually remain clear between snowfalls. Since rainfall is scarce from May to November, this period can be extremely dry and dusty. In recent years, drought has impaired agricultural production in some areas.

Population Last Updated: 11/24/2004 11:17 AM

A formal, accurate census has never been taken in Afghanistan and population figures are only approximations. Current estimates put total population at about +28.5 million. In 1979, a census was attempted that claimed a population of 15.5 million. Many of the refugees who fled to Pakistan and Iran during the long years of war have recently returned to Afghanistan, but some 3 million may still remain abroad.

Afghanistan's varied culture reflects its strategic location astride the historic trade and invasion routes that lead from the Middle East into central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan is the Pashtun (Pathan). Other sizeable ethnic groups are the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkomen, and Hazaras. The Pashtun group comprises about half of the total population.

Dari (Afghan Persian, spoken by about 50%) and Pashtu (an Indo-European language spoken by about 35%) are the principal, and official, languages, but Turkic dialects are used extensively in the north. Bilingualism is common. Russian was taught as a second language during the Soviet occupation. English has now replaced it as the foreign language of choice, but is still not widely spoken.

Afghanistan is a Moslem country, and the Sunni sect of Islam predominates. The Hazaras, Kizilbash, and Tajiks generally belong to the minority Shia sect. Most Afghans are devout Moslems and follow the tenets of Islam faithfully.

Despite recent political and social changes, Afghanistan's population remains essentially conservative and religious. Many Afghan women still wear the "burqha" or street-length veil, although it is not required by law. In Kabul, however, and in other large Afghan cities, some women are beginning to appear in public without their faces veiled. As Moslems, most Afghans do not drink alcoholic beverages or eat pork.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 11/24/2004 11:53 PM

After years of warlordism and Taliban rule, Afghanistan was left with no real national government until an Emergency Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) established the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) in June 2002. A subsequent Constitutional Loya Jirga developed a new Constitution, which came into force in January 2004. The Constitution provides for a president who is both the chief of state and head of government; plus two vice presidents. On October 9, 2004, Hamid Karzai, the interim president, was elected to a five-year team as president with 54.4% of the vote. Former King Zahir Shah holds the honorific, "Father of the Country." He performs some ceremonial functions but has no governing authority. Ministers are appointed by the president and will be approved by the National Assembly once that body is elected and takes office. Parliamentary and district elections are currently scheduled for spring 2005.

Afghanistan has had a turbulent, interesting history and has withstood many invasions. In 328 B.C., Alexander the Great entered what is today Afghanistan - but was then part of the Persian Empire - and captured several cities, including Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Balkh. The 300-year rule of his Greek successors was followed by that of Turkic Kushanis and various Buddhist groups. A lively Greco-Buddhist culture flourished around Bamian. In A.D. 652, Afghanistan fell to the conquering Arabs who brought with them Islam.

Arab hegemony gave way to renewed Persian predominance, which continued until A.D. 998, when Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkic ruler, assumed control. Ghazni became the capital. After Mahmud's death, Afghanistan was ruled by various princes until the invasion of the great Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, in the early 13th century. This resulted in the destruction of Herat, Ghazni, Balkh, and other Afghan cities. Marco Polo passed through Afghanistan later in that century.

In the late 14th century, Afghanistan came under the control of the Tamerlane. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the country was ruled by Babur the Great, founder of the Moghul dynasty in India. Babur's grave is in Kabul in a beautiful garden near Noon Gun Hill.

Afghanistan, as an independent kingdom, was founded by Ahmad Shah Durani, a Pushtun prince, who was crowned King of Afghanistan in 1747. From 1747 until the April 27, 1978 coup, the country was governed by the descendants or collateral descendants of Ahmad Shah.

During the 19th century, the history of Afghanistan was influenced by several European countries. To counter Russian influence in both Persia and central Asia, Great Britain fought the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-42), occupying much of Afghanistan in the process. In the face of Afghan resistance, the British were forced to withdraw in 1842, suffering a massacre. The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80) brought Amir Abdur Rahman Khan to the throne. Abdur Rahman created a central government in Afghanistan and introduced many modern elements into the country. Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan (then British India) and Russia were established during the Amir's reign.

Several 20th-century Afghan leaders, such as King Amanullah (1919-29), have supported programs aimed at modernizing the country. Successive regimes announced numerous reforms which have called for sweeping changes, but which have been rejected by traditional Afghan society.

In 1978, the government of former President Mohammad Daoud was overthrown, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (D.R.A.) was proclaimed, lead by Noor Mohammad Taraki. He, in turn, was overthrown and murdered by the rival "Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan" (PDPA), headed by Hafizullah Amin. In December 1979, the Soviets invaded with over 80,000 troops and overthrew Amin, whom they could no longer control. The Soviets were ultimately repelled by the resistance fighters, or "mujahidin," with whom most Afghans sympathized. However, as the mujahidin broke into factions, often along ethnic lines, Afghans tired of the constant state of war. They turned initially to the Taliban, who established order in areas under their control, but also enforced a strict version of Islam. Support for the Taliban waned under their repressive political tactics and the continued disintegration of the economy.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 11/24/2004 11:51 AM

Afghanistan is rich with archeological and historical sites, although security concerns still make some sites difficult to visit. The sixth century Great Buddhas in Bamian were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, but attempts are now being made to restore them.

Public education was never widespread and declined further during the period of Taliban rule, when most schooling was provided by humanitarian organizations. The national literacy rate is still around 36%, and is lower for women, many of whom were denied access to education under the Taliban. Rehabilitation of the educational system remains a massive challenge, but interest in education is high. The national government is seeking to provide universal primary education (grades 1-6). With the help of the international community, it is working to train teachers, increase the number of primary and secondary schools and improve programs, facilities, and instruction at the country's national and regional universities.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 11/24/2004 11:57 PM

After years of warfare, Afghanistan's economy was in shambles when the transitional authority took the reins in 2002. The considerable progress made since then can be attributed to the combined actions of the national government, donor countries, and the Afghan people. Afghanistan's leaders have focused on adopting sound economic policies, implementing a stable new currency (the Afghani) in 2002, and creating a national development strategy to work toward economic self-sufficiency. Donor countries have pledged over $8 billion in reconstruction aid to date, and the benefits of new infrastructure, such as the paved road from Kabul to Kandahar, can already be seen. The energy and resilience of the Afghan people can be seen in the growing resurgence of the private sector.

Afghanistan is an agriculture country with about 85% of the population engaged in agriculture. Only about 15%-20% of the total land is economically useful, but Afghanistan has in the past been close to achieving self-sufficiency in food grains.

Its principal cash crops are wheat, rice, corn, barley, cotton, sugar beets, oilseeds, and fruits and vegetables. Nuts, fresh and dried fruits, and vegetables were principal exports in the past. Other potential exports include cotton, carpets and rugs, and karakul (Persian lamb) skins.

Mineral resources consist of natural gas, coal, talc, barite, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron, and salt, as well as some precious stones, notably marble and lapis lazuli. None of these resources has been fully developed. By 2001, industrialization in Afghanistan had largely come to a halt, and new investment has been slow. However, a new USAID-sponsored industrial park built recently opened near Kabul. Access to reliable electricity remains a limiting factor.

Afghanistan is located at a crossroads of the ancient silk road and regional trade may again prove to be source of income for the landlocked country. At present, though, Afghanistan is still an extremely poor country that will likely remain dependent on foreign aid for the foreseeable future. Poppy cultivation has also increased dramatically and stronger efforts to contain it, and to promote alternate rural development are underway.


Automobiles Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:03 AM

Shipment of personally owned vehicles to Post is prohibited due to the current security situation. Transportation for all official appointments and personal errands will be provided by Post's Motor Pool with official travel having priority over personal requirements. Travel off the compound is restricted by security and/or availability of vehicles and drivers. All travel is done in armored vehicles.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:04 AM

Public transportation in Kabul includes buses and taxis. Buses are overcrowded and not usually used by Westerners. Taxis are generally available on the city's main routes but are difficult to find after dark and can be unsafe. Use of either mode of transportation by U.S. personnel is prohibited due to the current security situation.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 11/22/2004 12:10 AM

Ariana Afghan Airlines is the domestic air carrier for Afghanistan. The U.S. Government does not authorize official personnel to fly Ariana Afghan Airlines because of significant concerns about the airline's safety. For that reason, the U.S. Embassy strongly recommends private citizens against flying Ariana Afghan Airlines.

Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) has weekly flights from Baku into Kabul and Kabul to Baku twice a week. Baku is the preferred route for all TDYers.

UN Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS) flies from Dubai into Kabul twice a week. Transit through Dubai requires substantial Embassy Kabul assistance. UNHAS flights can only be booked through the Embassy in Kabul and requires a minimum of 30 days advance notice due to limited seating.

Pakistan International Airways (PIA) flies into Kabul from Islamabad, but due to the security situation in Pakistan, it is recommended that personnel not transit through Islamabad unless it is absolutely necessary.

Kam Air flies into Dubai. However, all U.S. Government employees are prohibited from using this airline because we do not recognize the Afghan civil aviation authority's certification.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 11/19/2004 4:44 AM

Embassy Main Commercial #: (93) (20) (230-0436) Embassy Fax #: (93) (20) 230-1364

All living quarters are equipped with a phone and their own extension. Post has 2 International Voice Gateway (IVG) lines, 12 Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) lines and Defense Switch Network (DSN) capability. Due to the time difference between Kabul and Washington (either 8.5 hours during Daylight Saving Time or otherwise 9.5 hours), prime time for phone usage is the evening hours. Employees may make long distance calls using their personal charge cards or calling cards.

Personnel permanently assigned to Post are issued a radio and cell phone (to be used for official purposes only).

Wireless Service Last Updated: 11/19/2004 8:23 AM Two cellular phone companies provide fairly adequate service throughout Afghanistan:

– Roshan Connection

– Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC)

Internet Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:08 AM

All living quarters have been wired for Internet connection. Post does not provide computers for personal use and recommends lap top computers due to limited space in living quarters. Computers will require Ethernet connectivity.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:27 AM

Kabul has no incoming APO service available; however, Post does have use of APO facilities at Kabul Compound for outgoing mail only. Incoming pouch mail should not exceed 40 pounds and 62 inches length and girth combined. Outgoing personal pouch may not exceed the size of a VHS cassette and 1 lb. The outgoing pouch is dispatched by DHL and is paid from Post's budget. Both DHL adn FedEx have offices in Kabul.

Kabul's pouch address is:

Official mail: (takes from 2-3 weeks) AmEmbassy Kabul 6180 Kabul Place Wash, DC 20521-6180 Attn: Name/Section

Personal Mail (takes from 2-4 weeks) Name 6180 Kabul Place Dulles, VA 20189-6180

Radio and TV Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:11 AM

Radio reception from outside the country varies due to mountainous terrain and atmospheric conditions. A good all-band shortwave receiver is highly desirable for those who wish to receive radio channels.

Post receives AFN channels in addition to Supermovies+1, Animal Planet, TCM (Turner Classic Movies), Cinema City, History Channel, Orbit ESPN, Hollywood Channel, Super Comedy Channel, BBC World and BBC Prime. All living quarters are equipped with cable connection along with TV and DVD.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:11 AM

American periodicals, publications, and magazines are available at the U.S. military Post exchanges or ordered for delivery through the pouch. There are two English newspapers, one daily and one weekly, and a variety of papers in Dari and Pashto.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:13 AM

Medical facilities in Kabul are very poor by U.S. standards. In the case of most elective surgery and medical problems requiring extensive laboratory investigation or long-term care, Embassy personnel maybe sent to London (medevac point) or returned to the U.S. on a cost-constructive basis.

The Embassy dispensary has a limited stock of medicines but is unable to supply long-term prescriptions. Embassy personnel are advised to bring a three (3) month supply of medicine. If you require special continuing medicine, bring a supply with you and arrange for periodic resupply by mail. Useful items to bring include a medical thermometer, hot water bottle, and heating pad. Bring a vaporizer since the dry dusty atmosphere contributes to respiratory problems. The Embassy supplies humidifiers for hooches. Physicians working for other diplomatic missions or international organizations are sometimes available for consultations in various medical specialties. Some dental work can be done in Islamabad and at the U.S. Army Field Hospital in Bagram. Post also employs a locally hired Afghan Physician.

Community Health Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:14 AM

No effective health controls or sanitary regulations govern food safety in markets and restaurants in Afghanistan. Closed sewage systems are nonexistent, and most Afghan homes have outdoor privies. Roadside toilet habits are very casual by American standards. Almost all water is contaminated, and dysentery is endemic among Afghans and very common among foreigners. Garbage is often tossed over compound walls and into open ditches ("jui's") and streams, which serve as water sources for home use. Fruits and vegetables for sale in the bazaar are washed in the jui's. Commercial refrigeration is almost nonexistent except in a few Kabul stores. Fly and vermin control is not practiced. It is recommended that purchased fruits and vegetables be washed thoroughly before consuming. Exercise caution when purchasing from street vendors.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 11/22/2004 0:01 AM

The Ministry of Health has continuous campaigns for childhood immunizations, special campaigns for outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as cholera, and active programs in other preventative medicine areas. In genera, curative care services throughout the country do meet U.S. standards.

Aliments commonly affecting Americans include amebic and bacillary dysentery (along with a variety of other intestinal and parasites), normal colds and sore throats, sinus infections from the dry air and summer dust, hepatitis, and pneumonia.

To lessen the incidence of dysentery, bottled water is supplied on the main Embassy compound. The CAFÉ compound has a well with a purification plant that provides potable water. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating by soaking them in an iodine or chlorine solution and washing with potable water.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:16 AM

Embassy Kabul is an unaccompanied Post.

American Embassy - Kabul

Post City Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:19 AM

Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, has an estimated population of over 4 million. It is in the eastern section of the country, 140 miles from the Pakistan border, situated on a high barren plateau (some 6,300 feet above sea level) surrounded by rugged, treeless mountains.

Private homes and most of Kabul's buildings are in mud-walled compounds. The city has several wide, paved boulevards and avenues as well as narrow, dirt streets. The slopes of the city's lower hills are dotted with small, one-story adobe houses. The old city center has narrow lanes with small kiosks, shops, or stalls behind the wide main streets; this is where most of the city's inhabitants usually shop. The Kabul River winds through the city, however, most of the year, this river is dry.

Kabul's climate is dry and hot during much of the summer. The skies may be polluted in winter as many inhabitants burn whatever is available for heat. The four seasons are: winter (from December to the end of February); spring (March to mid-May); summer (mid-May to mid-September); and fall (from mid-September to December). During winter temperatures sometimes fall below 0 ºF, and during January and February snowfalls can be heavy. In summer, daytime temperatures sometimes reach above 90 ºF but fall rapidly after sunset. Kabul is in a low rainfall area, and almost all precipitation occurs between November and May. Humidity is extremely low and the remaining months are virtually dry. Strong afternoon winds, accompanied by dust storms, frequently occur during the summer months.

Severe earthquakes are rare but tremors are frequent.

Security Last Updated: 11/20/2004 4:37 AM

General security guidelines

– The security environment in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan is complex and fluid. It is rated Critical Threat for terrorism, political violence and crime. There is continued potential for attacks against U.S. citizens and interests in Afghanistan. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, rocket attacks, suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, shootings or bombings. Potential exists in Kabul and the rest of the country for demonstrations, riots, bombings, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.

– Visitors are advised to maintain a high level of vigilance and to heighten their security awareness while at Post. American citizens have been victimized by vehicle-borne explosives within the last year. Occasional rocket attacks in the vicinity of the Embassy compound are unpredictable and random. There have been incidents of carjackings and robberies directed against NGOs, journalists and diplomats carried out by aggressive and armed persons. The proliferation of weapons on the street is extensive. Host country and ISAF forces have had some success in making arrests and seizing weapons, however travel outside of Kabul, many places remains extremely dangerous, and travel within Kabul after dark should also be avoided. Due to restrictions on travel and limitations on available resources, TDY travelers should be prepared to expect delays and possible cancellations of events in Kabul and of proposed out-of-Kabul travel.

Specific security guidelines

– The U.S. Embassy maintains a 2300 curfew, however changes in threat conditions may result in an earlier curfew on temporary basis. The RSO must clear any travel outside of the city as well as any proposed travel after dark. Travel during daylight hours and in an armored vehicle.

– The Embassy compound and perimeter are currently under U.S. military protection. Post is transitioning to a conventional local guard force. Residents and visitors are advised that alarm devices have been placed at critical locations around the perimeter wall by the Marines. Concertina wire has been placed throughout the compound and around the perimeter and is hazardous if touched. The CAFE Compound is protected by a contract guard force and also has concertina wire in place.

– Though the compound has been checked for mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO), there remains the remote possibility that a UXO or mine could remain. While in Afghanistan, do not touch anything suspicious, avoid picking up souvenirs, and immediately report any suspicious device to the RSO or USMC EOD personnel. Outside the compound, red rocks are uncleared mine areas, while white rocks are considered mine free areas. Be advised, however, there remains a 10% chance that unexploded mines remain in the mine cleared areas. For this reason, during all travel in Kabul or out of the city, travelers should remain on hard surface roads at all times.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:33 AM

The Embassy Mission in Kabul is headed by the Ambassador and the normal Department of State complement of offices and other departments of the Executive Branch. In November 2003, President Bush asked that the Commanding General of the Combined Forces Command relocate his command center from Bagram Air Field to the Embassy to afford close coordination between the diplomatic and military aspects of nation-building and reconstruction, his primary foreign policy goal in Afghanistan. Accordingly, a three-star general and his staff share the executive floor of the Chancery with the Ambassador and the Front Office.

The Mission consists of over 160 Americans and over 250 foreign national employees from the Department of State and twelve other agencies participating in ICASS, as follows:

– Department of Agriculture - Foreign Agricultural Service – Department of Defense - Army Central Command – Department of Defense - Defense Intelligence Agency – Department of Defense - Defense Security Cooperation – Department of Defense - Marine Security Guard Detachment – Department of Defense - Office of the Secretary of Defense – Department of the Interior - United States Geological Survey – Department of Justice - Drug Enforcement Agency – Department of the Treasury - Office of Technical Assistance – International Board of Broadcasters – United States Agency for International Development – United States Trade and Development Agency

The Department of State offices include seven sections with their own funding, as follows, further enriching the mix of background and expertise of officers reporting the Ambassador:

– Bureau of Diplomatic Security - Karzai Protection Office – Bureau of Diplomatic Security - Regional Security Office – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs – Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations – Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration – Bureau of South Asian Affairs - Afghanistan Reconstruction Group – Bureau of South Asian Affairs - Public Diplomacy

The Embassy is operational six days a week from Saturday through Thursday. Fridays are non-work days and Saturdays are essential personnel only. Embassy hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Post Facilities in Kabul

The Embassy physical facility consists of two compounds. The main 14-acre Embassy Compound is located on Great Masoud Road in the northeastern part of Kabul, about 10 minutes from the airport. It includes the existing Chancery (built in 1967), 77 original living hooches from 2002, and the following facilities under construction with an expected completion date of May 2005: New Office Building (NOB), three staff apartment buildings, and the Marine Security Guard quarters.

In addition to the main compound, the Embassy leases 8 acres across from the Chancery, known affectionately as the CAFE (Compound Across from the Embassy). Several offices including USAID, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group (ARG), and Public Affairs are located on this compound, in addition to 156 hooch living quarters constructed in 2004.

The Embassy also has two warehouse compounds, GSO being located on the old USIS compound in the Shar-e-Naw section of Kabul and USAID being located just west of town on Jalalabad Road. The old Ambassador's Residence was damaged beyond repair by rockets during the civil war, and the compound is currently used as local guard offices. Four other former residences, such as that of the Deputy Chief of Mission and the Political Counselor, are rented to private volunteer organizations such as CARE and Save the Children.

Presence in the Provinces

The Provincial Reconstruction Teams are joint military/civilian units that provide assistance in security, governance, reconstruction, and other areas to local Afghani populations. USG civilians are an integral part of a PRT. Officers work with the military PRT Commander to advise on political/cultural matters as civil affairs programs are implemented, e.g., building schools, drilling wells.

State Officers regularly meet with local government and civic officials to discuss the current situation, including security, needs, and ways and means of strengthening ties to the central government. Military patrols, accompanied by civilians, assess the causes of instability and make recommendations to local officials and the central government on ways to improve security for local citizens.

With Congressionally appropriated funding (handled by USAID), State, USAID, and USDA are involved in developing assistance projects to directly benefit the local population.

Current PRT locations and staffing are: – Asadabad - State – Bamyan - State, USDA – Farah - USAID – Gardez - State, USAID – Ghazni - State USAID – Herat - State, USDA, USAID – Jalalabad - State, USDA, USAID – Kandahar - State, USDA, USAID – Khost - State, USAID – Kunduz - State, USDA – Lashkar Gah - USAID – Mazar-I-Sharif - State, USDA, USAID – Parwan - State, USDA, USAID – Qalat - State, USAID – Sharana - State (staffed out of Parwan) – Tarin Kowt - State, USAID

Housing Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:33 AM

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:32 AM

Post does not have temporary quarters. All permanently assigned personnel are assigned to a living container (hooch, 7 feet by 15 feet, the bathroom measures 3 feet by 7 feet). TDYers are assigned to TDY hooches (to be shared with 1-4 people).

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:33 AM

All personnel are assigned to a hooch located on either of the two compounds. There are no hooches specifically assigned to any particular agency or office. Living quarters are allocated from the Embassy Housing Pool, managed by the Management Section. Housing is assigned as follows: permanently assigned personnel; long-term TDYers; short term TDYers. The only designated residence on the compound is the Ambassador residence.

Staff apartments are under construction and expected to be available for occupancy end of summer 2005. The new apartment building will provide 144 one-bedroom apartments. There is no designated housing for heads of sections.

Furnishings Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:35 AM

All hooches come equipped with a single bed, desk and chair, dresser, wardrobe, nightstand, dormitory size refrigerator, TV, DVD player, transformer, and microwave oven. The hooches are also equipped with a sink, toilet and shower in a separate room.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:36 AM

Electricity in Kabul is 220v, 50-cycle AC. Each hooch comes equipped with a combined air conditioning/heating unit, plus a water heater. The hooches on the CAFÉ share one water heater between 2 hooches. Space heaters and humidifiers are available through GSO.

All electrical items purchased locally should be checked by the Facilities Manager before use in order to ensure the item is safe and of the proper rating for its intended use. Please check with GSO on the recommended type of power strip for the hooch.

Food Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:37 AM

Kabul's open markets sell fruits, vegetables and meats. During the summer months, grapes, melons oranges, apples, pomegranates and bananas are available. In addition, excellent walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds are available. During the winter months, dried fruits are readily available, along with local apples, bananas and oranges. Care should be taken to properly wash before consuming.

Due to the limited refrigeration in public markets, the Embassy recommends against purchasing local meat products.

There are few local shopping markets available to Embassy staff. The markets that are available sell goods such as: toilet paper, microwave foods, snacks, assorted soft drinks, liquor, wine and beers. Prices are typically higher than in the U.S.

Embassy employees are also authorized use of the Base Exchange at Camp Phoenix and Kabul Compound, where one can purchase snack foods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, CDs, DVDs, etc.

Clothing Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:38 AM

A limited selection of Western and local clothing is available at the markets and bazaars. During the summer months, Post recommends lightweight, washable cottons and linens. It is extremely dusty and dry throughout the year. Kabul winters are cold, and snowfalls are frequent, making sweaters and heavy coats necessary. Boots are suggested for snow and mud conditions due to the on-going construction throughout the Embassy compound.

It occasionally rains, so an umbrella is recommended. Purchasing clothing on-line is common and many choose to purchase items after arriving in Kabul. Pouch mail takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Clothing and shoes become dirty very quickly from the fine dust, construction, and mud. Limited dry cleaning is available on the local economy.

Men Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:39 AM

Dark and light business suits are acceptable for most occasions. Lightweight suits are appropriate for spring and hot summer months. Men should also bring a sports jacket.

Women Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:40 AM

Washable summer cotton clothing is useful. Religious mores and local custom encourage modest dress for women, who should cover legs and arms when in the Afghan community while attending meetings with local government officials.

Winter items should include boots, a warm coat, hats, and scarves. Suede coats lined in either sheared lamb or fur and regionally woven woolen shawls can be purchased in Kabul at the local markets. Short-sleeve clothing should be avoided when out in the community, unless one carries a shawl or wrap. Most women in Kabul are conservative, and it is common to see local women wearing burka's (a head-to-ankle covering with embroidered eye area to see through).

Bring a good supply of shoes for all occasions that will withstand the construction and dry conditions. Kabul has local tailors of varying quality. Post occasionally brings a tailor on the compound who supplies limited suiting fabrics as well. Some women wear nylon stockings during summer and winter, especially when meeting with local government officials. Bring a good supply to Post or order on line, as you will not find these readily available in the community.

Children Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:41 AM

Embassy Kabul is an unaccompanied Post.

Supplies and Services Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:45 AM

Post now has the complete services of a beauty shop, barbershop and masseuse on the Embassy compound. Services include haircuts and coloring (recommend you bring your own coloring products), pedicures, manicures, waxing, and threading. The beauty shop is open on Saturdays and Sundays; the masseuse is available on Fridays and Mondays, and the barbershop is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. All services are available for a nominal fee.

Supplies Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:43 AM

Items you may wish to bring include a small stereo, CD player, and short wave or world band radio. The weather is good for much of the year, and many employees spend their free time outdoors. Compact lawn chairs and mini barbecues are recommended. Bed sheets, pillows and blankets for a single bed are recommended (new apartments will feature queen size beds). Post provides a welcome kit with sheets, towels, and pillow which should be turned back in upon arrival of your HHE.

Small appliances such as a blender, rice cooker, electric kettle and crock-pot are recommended if you wish to prepare your own food or drinks. Wall decorations are recommended to make your hooch more personal. Most personnel purchase a variety of Afghan carpets to cover the gray vinyl floors. The walls in the hooch are white plastic laminate. The Facilities Section can make and install shelving in the hooches.

Basic Services Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:43 AM

Both the Embassy and CAFÉ compounds have common-use laundry rooms equipped with full size American washers and dryers. All laundry rooms have irons and ironing boards available for use, as well as vacuum cleaners to borrow and return to the laundry room.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:44 AM

Both the Embassy and CAFÉ compounds have Concierge Services available. Services include daily or weekly hooch cleaning; laundry services including ironing; shoe shining; dry cleaning; and errand service (i.e., go to the local market, etc.) for a nominal fee. Personal maids are not allowed at the present time due to security clearance procedures.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:46 AM

Islam is the official religion of Afghanistan. Most Afghans are of the Sunni sect. Afghan law guarantees religious freedom to Afghan citizens but prohibits proselytizing activities in Afghanistan.

Catholic mass is conducted at the Italian Embassy chapel; however, Post may not authorize staff to attend depending on the security situation at the time. The military Chaplain offers nondenominational services on the compound. Additionally, on-compound Bible study groups come and go depending on interest.

Education Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:51 AM

Embassy Kabul is an unaccompanied Post, with no acceptable schooling for children. There is a Goethe Institute and Alliance Francaise, but Post personnel are often restricted for security reasons from leaving the compound to attend regular activities. Post employs a Dari instructor, and there are often monthly lectures on various aspects of Afghanistan culture and history.

Dependent Education Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:51 AM

Embassy Kabul is an unaccompanied Post.

Special Needs Education Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:52 AM

Embassy Kabul is an unaccompanied Post.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:53 AM

The Chancery has a fully equipped gym located in the basement. In addition, the CAFÉ compound has a walking/running track around the perimeter of the compound (just under .416 miles / 2.4 laps equal one mile). A gym on the CAFÉ compound is scheduled to be finished by January 2005.

Depending on the security situation, personnel can play softball at the ISAF compound, swim at the UNICA Guest House, or play tennis at the German Club On-compound facilities include a volleyball court and soon a tennis court.

At times, personnel may be allowed to attend a Buzkashi game. "Buzkashi" (like rugby on horseback) is the national sport. It is played mainly in the northern part of the country. The riders struggle for the possession of a goat, calf, or sheep carcass, and scores are counted when one of the teams is able to fling the animal's body into a designated circle on the field. The speed and agility of the riders makes this a thrilling game to watch.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:54 AM

The availability of tours, sightseeing, and other public outdoor activities depends on the security situation. The Embassy does work to bring local vendors onto the compound to sell their wares and provide a shopping outlet for those on the compound.

Entertainment Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:54 AM

Entertainment facilities in Kabul are limited. The Embassy Recreation Hooch has videos and CDs, along with a library of donated books. The CAFÉ Recreation Hooch sports a billiards table, big screen TV, and kitchenette for social gatherings. Staff members organize impromptu social events, such as Karokee Night, parties for the holidays and barbeques. Campfires at night are common on both compounds.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 11/22/2004 12:08 AM Off compound travel depends on the security situation, and restaurants and shopping may be off-limits for extended periods. When possible, many people frequent local restaurants for a bit of German food, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Croatian and fine local cuisine.

International Contacts Last Updated: 11/20/2004 5:11 AM There is an international community in Kabul that offers a variety of social opportunities. Many diplomats hold monthly meetings and social gatherings sponsored by the various embassies. Presently, there are over 20 diplomatic missions in Kabul. Employees at Post can socialize with local Afghans who are a warm and sociable people. The Afghan people take great pride in welcoming members of the diplomatic community into their homes.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:57 AM

It is possible to have business cards printed locally. No formal calls are made on government officials, but business cards are exchanged frequently with all business acquaintances.

Arrival and departure announcements of members of the diplomatic mission are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions by diplomatic note.

Special Information Last Updated: 11/18/2004 11:58 AM

Kabul is a one-year, 25 % Hardship and 25% Danger Pay Post with two R&Rs. Post's R&R point is London. For those that extend six months, a third R&R is allowed.

Kabul is also a Special Differential Post with tenured officers receiving 18% for long hours worked. Specialists and untenured officers receive overtime, often up to 25-30 hours per week.

Post Orientation Program

All personnel arriving at Post, whether permanent or TDY, are required to check-in with Human Resources upon arrival. The Regional Security Office and Health Unit give mandatory briefings. Permanent staff are provided with a welcome folder containing general information about Post, GSO services, etc.

Related Internet Sites Last Updated: 11/19/2004 5:13 AM

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 11/22/2004 12:07 AM

There are three travel routes to Kabul; through Baku, Dubai, or Islamabad. Baku is the preferred route for all TDYers. You will need 30 days advance notice to book through Dubai as the number of seats is limited.

All personnel arriving in Kabul are met and expedited at the airport by Embassy personnel. Due to the current security situation, personnel are not authorized to take a taxi from the airport. All travel should be coordinated with the GSO Travel Section so that arrangements can be made to schedule the Embassy Travel Expediters.

All TDYers are asked to bring a copy of their travel orders/authorization with them. The U.S. Government does not authorize official personnel to fly Ariana Afghan Airlines because of significant concerns about the airline's safety. Travel by Kam Air is also prohibited because the U.S Government does not recognize the Afghan civil aviation authority's certification. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends private citizens against flying Ariana Afghan Airlines or Kam Air.

The Embassy is closed on Fridays; therefore, we do not support Friday arrivals or departures.

Americans transiting Baku and staying overnight require an Azerbaijan visa which can be obtained at the airport. Americans transiting through Dubai with a diplomatic passport do not require a visa.

Americans transiting Islamabad must have a Pakistan visa. Personnel are no longer able to obtain an airport visa. In addition, personnel transiting Islamabad must have a separate country clearance from the Embassy in Islamabad.

We take this opportunity to remind potential travelers to Afghanistan of the continuing threats outlined in the current Travel Warning for Afghanistan and Worldwide Caution Public Announcement. The full text of each can be found at Updated information may also be obtained by contracting the American Embassy in Kabul at

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:00 AM

Embassy personnel are authorized 250 pounds unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) and 750 pounds of household effects (HHE). Personnel are not authorized shipment of privately owned vehicles (POV).

Most shipments are routed via surface to the European Logistical Support Office (ELSO) in Antwerp and from Antwerp to Kabul via air. You can track your UAB on line at:

UAB and HHE should be marked and consigned to:

Your Name (as shown on your orders) Embassy of the United States of America Kabul, Afghanistan Attn: GSO/Customs Expediter 070-20-1909/070-23-4568

Personnel are authorized a 1000 lb consumables shipment by air (most employees split this into two to three shipments due to the limited amount of storage space). Utilize the above address for consumables shipments as well.

Passage Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:00 AM

You must have a valid Afghanistan visa to enter the country. The Afghanistan Embassy in Washington issues visas. Post strongly suggests you obtain a Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan visa in advance of coming to Post, for use in case of emergency and for possible recreational trips and courier runs.

Kabul is a Class 1 Medical Clearance Post. If you have any significant medical problems, you should avoid travel to Afghanistan. Vaccinations required for Kabul include: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, typhoid, 3 rabies shots, meningitis and 1 polio after age 18.

Pets Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:01 AM

Employees are prohibited from bringing pets that require time outdoors (i.e., all dogs and cats). Housing units are very small and tightly packed. Outdoor pets could encounter deadly dangers, including concertina wire, booby traps around the perimeter and bomb dogs. With the number of construction projects on the compound, heavy equipment is constantly driving through the compound. Availability of veterinarians is also extremely limited.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:02 AM

Shipping personal weapons of any kind to Kabul is not permitted, with no exceptions. The Regional Security Office can help answer any questions regarding the transport of weapons.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:37 AM

The monetary unit in Afghanistan is the "afghani." One afghani consists of 100 "puls." The official exchange rate is 45.21 Afghan to one (1) U.S. dollar. Currently, the Embassy only cashes checks for U.S. dollars, which are acceptable in town and at the various military exchanges.

There are three international banks in Kabul: The Bank of Pakistan, Standard Chartered Bank, and AIB. Western Union facilities are available at Dunya Travel Services. Embassy employees may cash up to $1000 per week through the Embassy cashier.

The metric system is officially used but Kabul also has a traditional local system of weights and measures. The "pau" (15 ounces) is the unit of measure for most foods; a "seer" is 15.7 pounds, a "kharwar" is 80 seers or about 1,254 pounds; and a "jerib" is .482 acres.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:03 AM

All personnel assigned to the Mission are granted duty-free import privileges and may import unaccompanied baggage and household effects. However, because of security conditions, shipment of a personally owned vehicle is not authorized.

Official permission is required for sale of any personal property. CFR, Title 22 Foreign Relations, Part 136 Personal Property Disposition at Posts Abroad, states that personnel under the Chief of Mission (COM) may not sell personal property within a foreign country that was imported into or purchased in that foreign country, and that by virtue of the official status of the employee, was exempt from import restrictions, customs duties, or taxes, without prior written approval of the COM of designee. Also an employee may only retain an amount equal to the purchase price, plus transportation not reimbursed or paid by the USG. The personal property must have been acquired for bona fide personal use.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:37 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Crile, George Charlie Wilson's War, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003

Coll, Steve Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Penguin Books, 2004

Rashid, Ahmed Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Yale University Press, 2001

Seierstad, Asne The Book Seller of Kabul, Brown and Company, 2003

Dupree, Nancy Hatch An Historical Guide to Afghanistan, Afghanistan Tourist Organization, 1971

Ahmed Rashid Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, Penguin Books, 2003

Girardet, Edward, Masood, Mirwais, Walter, Jonathan, Norchi, Charles Afghanistan: Crosslines Essential Field Guides to Humanitarian and Conflict Zones, Media Action International, 2004

Khaled Hosseni The Kite Runner, Riverhead Books, 2004

Elliot, Jason An Unexpected Light, Travels in Afghanistan, Picador, 2001

Lamb, Christina The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan, Harper Collins 2002

Local Holidays Last Updated: 11/18/2004 12:41 AM

Fixed Holidays

Nawroz (New Year) March 21 Independence Day August 19

Lunar Holidays (Unconfirmed as depends on lunar signs under Islamic calendar

Eid-ul-Qurban (Day of Sacrifice) Feb 1-3

Tenth of Moharram (Death of Prophet's Grandson) March 3 Milad-e-Nabi (Birth of Prophet Mohammad) May 2 First of Ramadan (Beginning of the month of fast) Oct 14 Eid-al-Fitr (End of the month of fast) Nov 14-16

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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