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72 SAFET Y IN AFGHANISTAN •• Types of Risk

To learn more about land mines in Afghanistan, visit the OMAR Land Mine Museum in Kabul ( p93 ).

unproductive due to the threat that lies beneath the topsoil, and provides a barrier to the land’s reconstruction. Moreover, the direct cost of dem- ining and associated activities runs at about US$100 million per annum. The sheer number of amputees in Afghanistan is a morbid reminder of the social cost of the problem, not forgetting the widows and orphans they create.

The Afghan NGO Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Reha-

bilitation (OMAR) produces a series of guidelines for land-mine aware- ness and safety:  Stay away from areas such as military bases, battlefields, destroyed houses, unused roads and paths, wells, the banks of irrigation canals and culverts.

 When travelling by road, stay on the road even when taking a toilet break. If in doubt, turn back – land mines are laid to be invisible.

 Red and white marks indicate an area marked by a mine-action pro- gramme. Red marks show mined areas; white marks show that the area has been cleared and is safe.

 Talk to locals and observe local behaviour to find out about safe areas. Locals often develop their own signs for marking mined areas. These include rocks laid across a path, piles of stone or bundles of sticks.

 If you face a mine or UXO, stay calm. Turn back and slowly follow your footsteps to return to a safe area, shouting a warning to those with you. Mark the mined area with a line of rocks and inform the local authorities and/or demining agency.


When out and about don’t dress extravagantly, keep your cash stashed, your jewellery covered and your mobile phones in your pocket.

With the majority of Afghans living in extreme poverty the security situation further impedes their ability to earn a basic living. The security forces are preoccupied with the insurgency and crime has flourished, aided by lack of capability and corruption within the ANP. The criminal threat is amplified by the questionable success of the DDR (Disarma- ment, Demobilization and Reintegration) programme, whose goal was to remove warlord power structures and weapons. Hundreds of what are now called ‘illegally armed groups’ operate freely across the country, with arsenals of light and heavy weapons, therefore highway banditry, car jacking and protection rackets are rife. By comparison to the local population, any international in Afghani-

stan is extremely affluent and is a potential target of at the very least petty crime.


Kidnapping remains a threat for internationals in Afghanistan and is perpetrated by two groups: by criminals for ransom and by insurgents as part of their operations. Criminal groups have been known to sell hostages to the highest bidder, usually the insurgents. Although numerous Turkish and Indian road construction and tele- communications engineers have been kidnapped, some later being be- headed by insurgents in the south, most other cases have been criminally inspired. An Italian NGO worker and three UN elections workers were kidnapped in Kabul and later released in 2005 – it was never confirmed if a ransom was paid. Any kidnapping will be preceded by reconnaissance and planning. It

is essential that you do not set patterns of movement and timings. This is particularly important for those working in Afghanistan, going to the office at 8am and returning to your guesthouse at 5pm on the same

SAFET Y IN AFGHANISTAN •• Moving Around 73

route everyday could indeed make you a target. Vary your movement and remain situationally aware.


The 2006 opium crop reinforced Afghanistan’s infamous accolade of being the world’s largest producer of opium; in fact, the country pro- duced 92% of the global crop or a staggering 6100 metric tons. Some of it will be processed into heroin in Afghanistan, but most of the process- ing is done in neighbouring countries, and then trafficked all the way to the streets of Europe and Russia. It is Afghanistan’s largest export and unfortunately, due to a lack of natural resources, the country’s economy is reliant on its production. Expensive attempts at eradicating the crop have been made – in terms of financial resources expended and the deaths of Afghan security forces clashing with farmers – all with little impact. However, it is clear that on the opium issue, the insurgency, warlords and some government officials are happy to cooperate in the name of mutual gain. Although the opium poppies look beautiful and many internationals would like to have their picture taken in a field, ‘opium tourism’ is a dangerous activity. Most fields are guarded by armed men to protect the crop when it is growing and being harvested. It may be a lethal case of mistaken identity if you are confused as potential poppy eradica- tion surveyor earmarking annual earnings for destruction. Moreover anti-personnel mines are known to have been planted in fields to also disrupt eradicators. To learn more about opium in Afghanistan see the boxed text, p196 .


There is no doubt that you are most vulnerable in Afghanistan when you are moving around, with the majority of security incidents occur- ring when travelling by road. Therefore, your movement in Afghanistan should be planned, methodical and necessary. Driving in Afghanistan requires nerves of steel in order to dodge the

donkey carts, overloaded trucks and total absence of road rules. Accord- ingly it is advisable not to drive yourself; most NGOs employ drivers to not only drive but also maintain the vehicles. They have a distinct advan- tage when it comes to the language and local knowledge for navigation. However, like you, it is important your driver knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Some NGOs prefer to use low profile, local-looking vehicles rather

than large 4WDs plastered with their symbols – while others not only display their logos, but also fly their flag. The threat of the environment you are working in will often dictate which option to take, and what works in one province won’t necessarily give you the same amount of protection in others. Likewise your ability to use local transport, whether that is taxis, Millie

buses or rickshaws will be influenced by the prevailing security situation. Ensure you travel in at least a pair and keep in regular contact with your colleagues or fellow travellers. The decision to transit through high-risk areas should not be taken lightly, like the Kabul–Herat run by bus, where insurgent and bandit check points are commonplace, and this reinforces the need for the latest information. Even if you never leave Kabul, you will certainly encounter check- points, mostly manned by the ANP; however, ISAF and the ANA may also be present. Comply with their instructions, listen to what they

The ANP will usually arrest the drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident at the scene, regardless of how minor the damage is – it’s the closest thing the not-at- fault driver gets to insurance.

Afghan prisons have a growing foreigner population, almost exclusively of drug traf- fickers. Many are lured by the easy cash; however, increasingly, more are being intercepted by the authorities. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123
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