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Springtime in Kabul

Planning to travel to Afghanistan in March/ April. Would appreciate any advice about security, fixers, recommended accommodations etc. With the Taliban pretty well ensconced in the south, and with a bumper poppy crop coming in to finance them, I’m hearing growing concern that things are going to escalate pretty heavily, pretty quickly come spring. Anyone with boots on the ground there now, or coming out recently, that might share their assessment of the situation?
Any advice, insights much appreciated,
Thanks

by Mark Manley at 2007-01-23 06:18:28 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) New York City , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Mark,

Thank you for contacting me about your trip to Afghanistan. I was last there in October so I don’t have first hand up to the minute info. However I am still in regular contact with those in the UK community out there and they have said that while things have been relatively stable in Kabul the security in other states is deteriorating. The Taleban have de-facto control of much more than just the south and even Wardak province, near to Kabul is said to hve a parallel government and that after dark everything is controlled by the Taleban. The situation as described by those who are propperly in the know is certainly far more grave than is generally percieved in the media and those outside the country. To this end I would recomend that you make sure your budget will allow for enough money to spend on safe accomodaton and reliable fixers. Afghan Logistics are the most reliable for transport and there are a number of guesthouses that will give you the right balance between discretion and security. I have stayed at the Park Palace during my last three trips, some swear by the Gandemak but it is pricey. Avoid the Serena would be my gut feeling and wherever you stay and travel to, make sure you have worked out which way you will get out of the city in an emergency. Spend a day or so traversing the various routes deciding where and who you would turn to if the city is taken. If you are a US Citizen then make sure you have a contact in the embassy if that is where you would seek shelter becasue if it all goes pear-shaped you want to make sure that your name is on a list of people that would be admitted to the compound. Most longer term Afghan corespondents will probably have good plans drawn up so speak to them when you arrive. There is still a reasonable social scene but call around becasue last I heard, the famous l’Atmophere was not the one-stop shop for information that it has been over the 2005/06 period. Go and see the helpful press office at ISAF and try to get ISAF media accreditation as it will help enormously in any late night police check-points (shake-downs). Apart from all these things just apply all the principles you would in any potentially hostile environment. Afghans are wonderfull people in general but kidnap and bombings are stll a growth industry so discretion and vigilance are vital. As for flights, I prefer KAM over Ariana but there is not much to choose between them. There is even a certain Pretzel logic that goes: Ariana Pilots have more equipment failures than any other airline but they still haven’t crashed yet so when things go wrong (they do frequently!) they are more experienced at dealing with it! KAM do have better pilots than they used to and their crash was mostly due to fuel leakeage and the fact that they were refused permission for an emergency landing at Baghram Air Base. But it’s really the difference between hung or shot at the end of the day! I would not advise going through Pakistan via either Quetta or Peshawar. It is not impossible by any means but is relatively expensive and best avoided for those without heavy contacts in Jalalabad or Torqam to see them safely up the road to Kabul.
If you aim to travel outside Kabul you should excercise caution and plan your trips well. Set up a schedule of contact whith someone in Kabul and tell them the route yo are taking and who you plan to meet, basic steps can save you in an emergency (even just bad weather!) and a regular contact shedule with clear communication will avoid others worrying unnecissarily on your behalf.
Hope that helps with some of the basic background information. Good luck and I hope you get great pictures.

by Justin Sutcliffe | 23 Jan 2007 17:01 | Whitstable, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Much thanks Justin for the detailed reply!! This is all really helpful information. Thanks again.

by Mark Manley | 23 Jan 2007 18:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→

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Mark Manley, Photographer Mark Manley
Photographer
New York City , United States
Justin Sutcliffe, Photographer, Justin Sutcliffe
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(therevolutionwillnotBtelevised)
London , United Kingdom


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