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Afghan Daily Life Offers New Opportunities, Old Problems

Nearly eight years after the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan, military operations and political shifts have changed the daily lives of the Afghan people in unexpected ways. Margaret Warner reports on day-to-day life, the drug trade and corruption in the country.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    In a country with few paved roads, you can still ride in luxury. Omar Farouk Trading Company first started selling cars in Kabul 30 years ago, but this is a new day for Afghanistan, says manager Mir Alam.

    MIR ALAM, Farouk Trading Company (through translator): During the Taliban, we had to shut the business down. Now that we have the present government, we can do our business freely. We are free.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Across the street is the Ansari mall, a thin slice of gulf glitz in Kabul and home to the country's only escalator. There's even a shop selling musical instruments, banned in the Taliban era that ended with the U.S. invasion seven-and-a-half years ago.

    On nearby streets, girls are walking to school, a sight never seen in Taliban days. On other corners, men hawk phone cards. There were virtually no cell phones here in 2001; today there are 8 million.

    And citizens of this still-conservative Islamic republic now enjoy a proliferation of newspapers, radio, and TV channels, including an "American Idol"-style program on Tolo TV, "Afghan Star."

    But the contradictions of this new Afghanistan are apparent just a block from Tolo TV, at an upscale restaurant called Boccaccio. This oasis of continental cuisine is owned by a U.S.-educated Afghan, Mohammad Yousif Rafik.

    Typical of the Afghan emigres who've returned to rebuild his country, he's proud to have brought what he calls a European standard of quality control to Kabul. But partly because he wants to serve alcohol, he caters predominantly to a foreign clientele, who arrive with their security details.

    He buys all his food in Dubai, and he almost never lets in anyone wearing loose-fitting Afghan dress, because it could hide a weapon or suicide vest.

    MOHAMMAD YOUSIF RAFIK, restaurateur: Because most of the special people come, they put their helmets down, they put their gears down, and want to have a dinner and relax. And, basically, I know every single person sitting behind another person, who they are, and that way my customers will feel comfortable.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    After a kidnapping attempt, Rafik doesn't even feel secure himself. He keeps his family in Dubai and commutes three to four times week.

    Yet it's a painful contrast with the life most Afghans live. At a Kabul roundabout, we met scores of men looking for work, many skilled laborers.

    ABDUL MANA, day laborer (through translator): My kids are crying. They had nothing to eat this morning. Now I have nothing to take back to my children.

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