The Washington Times01/31/2013By Guy Taylor[Printer Friendly Version]
More than 11 years have passed since U.S. troops first entered Afghanistan, but remnants of the al Qaeda network “remain active” in the nation and no place in the country is safe for Americans, according to the latest “travel warning” issued by the State Department on Tuesday.
“The security situation remains volatile and unpredictable throughout the country,” according to the travel warning, which arrives as U.S. military forces are preparing to withdraw significant forces from Afghanistan.
While U.S. troops are slated to turn the nation’s security operations over to Afghan forces during the months ahead, the travel warning contends that “Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of Afghan citizens and foreign visitors.”
“Travel in all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe due to military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks,” the warning states.
It was unclear Tuesday how closely the State Department coordinated on the warning with White House, where President Obama met earlier this month with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss the impending drawdown of U.S. forces.
Mr. Obama said on Jan. 11 that Afghan forces were exceeding initial expectations and would be given the lead on security by this spring — slightly ahead of schedule. He did not say, however, how many U.S. troops would remain in the country beyond next year.
Mr. Obama said the question of whether any residual U.S. forces would remain in Afghanistan would depend on whether there is an immunity agreement for American troops with the Afghan government, as is the case with U.S. military deployments around the world.