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Even before recent events, Afghanistan was a dicey prospect for even the most die-hard traveller. Twenty years of war had exacerbated tribal tensions, turned the countryside into a haven for bandits and an oft-used theatre for various civil warlords, while cities were transformed into places where simple survival was a day's work.

Currently, however, all bets are off. After 2001's September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA's World Trade Center and Pentagon - followed by a month of half-hearted negotiations between American and Taliban representatives concerning perpetrator Osama bin Laden - the United States, supported by a shaky coalition of concerned nations, began bombing Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. The Northern Alliance took over the capital, Kabul, on November 12 and an interim government took office on December 22. Since then military operations by the USA and its allies have been maintained. The military campaign, which is expected to last for some time, and ethnic tensions and acts of banditry, also not expected to diminish any time soon, continue to make travel outside Kabul a dangerous proposition.

Other obstacles to travel include unexploded land mines, a lack of infrastructure, including a scarcity of medical facilities, and food shortages - all long-standing problems exacerbated by the recent military conflict. Keep in mind that many destinations we included in the 'Attractions' section of this profile, including Kabul and Kandahar, continue to be considered military targets by various groups.

So, unless you're wearing a uniform or a press badge, you probably won't be visiting these once-touristed destinations anytime soon.

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