US Mission Afghanistan: Braces for More Protests, Encourages Amcits to Shelter in Place

The US Embassy in Kabul issued the following Emergency Message to U.S. citizens on February 23, 2012:

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul alerts U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Afghanistan that there is a strong likelihood of continued protests around the country on February 24, 2012. Over the past two days, demonstrations have occurred across Afghanistan and have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries and in some cases death. The protests are in reaction to the attempt by ISAF personnel to improperly dispose of Islamic religious materials, including Korans, at Bagram Airbase on February 20, 2012. In some instances, American and ISAF installations have been attacked.

According to media reports, at least one demonstration is planned for February 24, 2012 in Kabul city, and more are possible following the end of Friday prayers. Road closures are expected and it is possible the protests will become violent.

The Embassy strongly encourages all U.S. citizens in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan to shelter in place and avoid any unnecessary movement. We wish to remind U.S. citizens that past demonstrations in Afghanistan have escalated into violent attacks on Western targets of opportunity. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations, spontaneous or planned.

U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should remain vigilant and avoid areas where Westerners congregate. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers, or in public. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and always travel with mobile phones or appropriate communication equipment. The Embassy is carefully monitoring the situation and reviewing its security posture, and may send out additional emergency messages as the situation evolves.

On February 22, U.S. Embassy Kabul ‏ @USEmbassyKabul, tweeted:

On the same day, the State Department’s Mark Toner was asked during the DPB what does the lockdown of the embassy exactly entails.  Here is what Mr. Toner says:

MR. TONER: I mean, lockdown is a bit overly dramatic, I think. My understanding is that there was an announcement or a suspension, rather, of all travel of chief-of-mission personnel. And my understanding, too, is that movement was later suspended for employees in the southern part of Afghanistan as well. And this announcement was pushed out over the embassy website as well as via Twitter, and this restriction on travel is still in place.

On February 23, ‏ @USEmbassyKabul also tweeted, “We have expanded our movement restrictions to RC-North as well. Please be safe out there.” Now that’s dramatic, too.

Also on February 23, ISAF says that “an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon  against International Security Assistance Force service members in eastern Afghanistan today, killing two service members.”

The attacked reportedly occurred at a military base in Khogyani in eastern Nangarhar province, according to Mohammad Hassan, the district’s governor, cited by the AFP news agency.

The WSJ says that the Afghan soldier who killed the two service members escaped into a crowd of protesters demonstrating outside the base.

Can’t they just say an Afghan soldier killed two of our soldiers? I suppose not, they have to investigate if the individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform is really a soldier or not, who just happens to be at a military base, with a gun that we may or may not have given him.

To our friends in Kabul, keep your head down and stay safe.

Domani Spero

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