Polish travel agency takes tourists to Afghanistan


WARSAW, Poland — A Polish travel agency has offered a special package tour for the intrepid tourist—a trip to Afghanistan. Poland’s Foreign Ministry promptly countered by issuing a travel warning.

Poznan-based Logos Travel advertised the two-week tour, departing in May, as “only for those seeking bruises and adventure.” It said the 12 places, costing up to $3,700 apiece, have all been booked.

However, reports of the offer spurred Poland’s Foreign Ministry to warn Poles against unnecessary travel to Afghanistan, where NATO forces are struggling to tame a relentless Taliban insurgency.

The ministry said the country “remains a zone especially susceptible to terrorist attacks” and said Poles could be targets for kidnappers due to the presence of some 1,600 Polish troops in the NATO force.

The agency’s owner, Marek Sliwka, said he is aware of the dangers such a trip poses—but believes that, with security precautions such as armed guards who will accompany the group, it is safe enough for tourists.

“Military people are saying it’s too early, and that it’s a delicate situation what with Polish forces being stationed there, and that the presence of tourists could be taken advantage of by enemy forces,” Sliwka said.

He added that the trip, which is slated to depart May 2, could still be canceled if ensuring security for the group becomes too daunting.

The trip’s highlights include the Kabul, the capital; the western city of Herat; and the site of two giant Buddha statues that graced the ancient Silk Road town of Bamiyan for 1,500 years. Taliban fighters blew up the statues when they controlled Afghanistan in early 2001.
The offer on the company’s Web site also dangles a possible trip to the caves of Tora Bora, where Osama bin Laden allegedly sought shelter from U.S. forces after the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. But Sliwka said that excursion has been scrapped due to security concerns.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Poland, Zia Mojadedi, estimated that a couple of thousand tourists visited Afghanistan last year. He acknowledged that some parts of his country are dangerous, but stressed that other regions are safe for travel.

“People imagine Afghanistan from the media perspective,” Mojadedi said. “They think it’s fighting everywhere, on every street, and there are explosions and suicide attacks everywhere, but that’s not true. There is trouble in some part of the country, but mostly the northern part and center part of the country is fairly safe.”