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State Department to Americans: Don’t go to Pakistan

As a fresh wave of anti-American protests swept Pakistan Thursday, the State Department issued a new travel warning urging American citizens to stay away from the country. "The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan," the new warning states. The warning does not mention that the protests, including outside ...

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/GettyImages
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/GettyImages
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/GettyImages

As a fresh wave of anti-American protests swept Pakistan Thursday, the State Department issued a new travel warning urging American citizens to stay away from the country.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan," the new warning states.

The warning does not mention that the protests, including outside the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, are related to the anti-Islam video that has sparked outrage across the Muslim world. Pakistan's government, bowing to pressure from hard-line Islamic groups, has declared Friday a national holiday to allow citizens to express their "love for the prophet," and Pakistan watchers are bracing for further angry anti-American demonstrations.

As a fresh wave of anti-American protests swept Pakistan Thursday, the State Department issued a new travel warning urging American citizens to stay away from the country.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan," the new warning states.

The warning does not mention that the protests, including outside the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, are related to the anti-Islam video that has sparked outrage across the Muslim world. Pakistan’s government, bowing to pressure from hard-line Islamic groups, has declared Friday a national holiday to allow citizens to express their "love for the prophet," and Pakistan watchers are bracing for further angry anti-American demonstrations.

"Protests have taken place across Pakistan against the United States, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO. There have also been widespread demonstrations and large political rallies condemning drone strikes, Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis, and Pakistan’s July 3, 2012, decision to reopen NATO transit routes to Afghanistan," the warning says. "These protests and demonstrations are likely to continue. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings."

The warning highlights the presence of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militant sectarian groups inside Pakistan and says that the U.S. government believes these groups have the intention of attacking  locations where Americans and other Westerners are likely to be, including shopping malls, restaurants, clubs, and parks.

"Terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas," the warning says. "Some media reports have falsely identified U.S. diplomats – and to a lesser extent U.S. and other Western journalists and non-governmental organization workers – as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel."

The warning lists a series of past attacks on Pakistani and foreign diplomatic and security installations, including a "complex attack" in April 2010 on the U.S. consulate in Peshawar. The State Department is warning that U.S. government personnel are restricted from moving freely in Pakistan and that Pakistani authorities might not be there to help Americans in their time of need.

‘Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, on valid missionary visas have encountered increased scrutiny from local authorities since early 2011. Local authorities are generally less responsive and might not operate with the level of professionalism that U.S. citizens might be accustomed to in the United States," the warning states. "U.S. citizens seeking services from the U.S. Consulates General in Karachi and Peshawar might also encounter harassment from host government officials."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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