Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A boy plays in Aria City, a gated community that caters to white-collar Afghans, offering prized amenities like central heating and air conditioning, 24-hour running water and private guards.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Bani Amin, 16, in Aria City, where he and other residents live in modern apartments, shop at Western-style stores and swap text messages on their cellphones.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Hazhir Hoshan, left, and his friend Abdullah Hakimi, both 17, eat chicken burgers at Aria CIty's restaurant. Afghanistan is "like a new child," Hazhir says. "It's good now. We go to school, play football.... We can have fun together."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

The streets of downtown Kabul are being repaved, a much-needed improvement, with foreign donations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Omid Mesrabi, 23, opened two clothing stores in December in the Gulbahar shopping center, one selling lingerie and the other selling more modest attire. "Things are getting better day by day," he says of Afghanistan. "We didn't have good roads, buildings or centers like these. But now we have them." Unlike some members of his generation, he has no plans to leave the country after foreign troops withdraw next year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Zarlasht Baiza, 23, who works as a television producer and on-camera reporter, has received threatening phone calls telling her to quit. "Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the Taliban take over again,” she says.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Nabil Ahmad, 26, is optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. The father of two recently got a new job at a cellphone company in the capital.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

In the Gulbahar shopping center in downtown Kabul, a mechanical bull is one of the many new forms of entertainment for young people. The mall has been targeted by terrorists.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Members of the Women's Football Federation practice soccer at a new stadium. Under Taliban rule, women were executed in a nearby stadium.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Naweed Malyar buys minutes for his cellphone at a kiosk.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

City Star Hall is one of the newest wedding centers in the capital, where such celebrations are a big business. Despite the city’s modernization, some worry that a return to civil war is on the horizon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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By Alexandra Zavis

KABUL, Afghanistan — Behind the thick walls of one of Kabul’s newest districts, Tooba Hotak practices driving her parents’ Mercedes in a parking lot lined with cream-colored apartment buildings.

The car lurches as she tries shifting gears, but the 16-year-old drives on, past a cluster of stores and a playground full of children chasing one another in the snow.

Later, she slips into a pair of fluffy slippers for a chemistry class in her family’s plush living room.

Tooba is being home-schooled in the British education system. She hopes to go to college and become an engineer. Marriage, children — “that’s not so important,” she says.

Like many middle-class Kabul residents of her generation, Tooba lived most of her life abroad. She wasn’t born yet when Soviet forces pulled out of the country in 1989, unleashing a civil war that eventually gave rise to the Taliban and drove her family into exile in China.

They returned after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to a city that had shaken off the most rigid strictures of the Islamic militants’ rule, which denied girls an education and kept them largely confined to their homes.

Although large parts of the population still struggle to survive in overcrowded slums, these teens and young adults live in modern apartments, shop at Western-style malls and supermarkets, swap text messages on their cellphones, celebrate weddings at neon-decked halls and are connected to the world through television, movies and the Internet.

Tooba doesn’t worry about what her life might look like after the departure of most U.S. and international troops next year.

“It will be the same,” she says, nibbling a date. “This is a dangerous place for Americans, but not for Afghans.”

1 Comment

  1. May 7, 2013, 9:09 am

    If anyone truly believes that the pictures on display here are a true representation of what afghanistan is currently like, they are fools. These people displayed in these pictures are a vast minority, and most afghans have serious reservations about whether their lives have been made better or worse since the US got involved. As usual, this is one sided, biased reporting.


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