Unbelievable Photos Show Kabul's Dramatic Transformation From Battlefield To Modern Metropolis

Much has happened in Afghanistan since the first American boots set foot on the ground in October 2001.

With the Taliban in power prior to the war, Afghanistan had one of the worst human rights records in the world, especially in its treatment of women. But a decade later, the change is evident in the country’s largest city of Kabul, home to 3.6 million people.

While the U.S. was successful in its initial defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, many problems still remain — including serious security concerns in outlying provinces — but the change in Kabul is rather striking.

Present-day Kabul looks much like any other city in the world, with the exception of different styles of dress and language. Men and women talk openly in public, electronics and computers have become commonplace, and even western haircuts and clothing styles have become the new norm.

This scene could be from any Western mall ...

... filled with stores and modern-day amenities ...

... but this one is not in the West. It's in Kabul, a city transformed from war-torn to almost cosmopolitan.

Plenty of cars have made their way onto improved roads ...

... that see plenty of company advertising most Westerners are accustomed to.

Much like New York City or Hong Kong, the signs are everywhere.

Advertising new cell phones ...

... or college educations.

A vibrant music scene has emerged ...

... from young people just learning how to play the guitar ...

... to established musicians, like rapper Mahmoud Hejran, recording in a homemade studio.

Street artists have taken over blank walls.

And art institutes have been created.

While most women outside the city wear full face coverings, many here do not.

And it's not only women. Men's styles have become much more modern ...

... with some trading in the traditional long tunic, baggy trousers, and sandals ...

... for skinny jeans and boots.

Changes have also come to hairstyles.

Still, the clash of old and new has not been easy.

As Kabul, much like the rest of the country, is still beset with problems and instability.

Trash cleanup and other infrastructure issues still plague parts of the city.

And fears of another militant attack are never far.

But as military withdrawal nears, the U.S. hopes Afghan security forces will finally take the lead.

And preserve the freedom that has emerged in the city.

Scenes like these in the Kabul of 1999 would be unheard of ...

... with teenagers playing video games ...

... gathering around a hookah ...

... or shooting pool.

But a large segment of Afghan youth has grown up outside of Taliban control.

They have played soccer in places ...

... once reserved only for public executions.

Found other recreational activities.

Or now compete in once-banned sports.

They have purchased computers with Internet access ...

... and smartphones.

They have helped to build television networks ...

... or their own businesses, like this bodybuilding studio.

Medical care has vastly improved, even outside Kabul. More than 60% of Afghans now live within one-hour walking distance of a medical facility.

And infant mortality has decreased by 57%.

While much has changed ...

... and with a presidential election coming on April 5 ...

The future ahead is far from certain.

But at least for now -- with Taliban far from controlling Kabul -- residents can have at least some level of normalcy.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.