KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ One of the few places in the world where images of the collapsing Twin Towers did not replay again and again on Sept. 11, 2001, was where the mastermind of the terrorist network behind the attacks was probably hiding _ Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime that harbored Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network had banned television.

The hard-line Islamic militia was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001 and Afghans can again watch TV. Girls can go to school and women can take a paying job.

But many here are still waiting to sample life lived in security and prosperity, as the country contends with enduring poverty and lawlessness.

Memories of the attacks are vivid _ although at first few were aware that halfway across the world, the World Trade Center was crashing down in New York and more than 3,000 people were dying.

``I heard that there are two tall buildings, very tall and ... that some people destroyed them,'' recalled Wali Ahmad, a 34-year-old shopkeeper.

``All the time, we listened to the radio, and then we heard they were using the name of al-Qaida behind this attack. It became more interesting to us because we didn't know that Osama bin Laden was such a big guy.''

For Mohammad Sharif Nasir, a 23-year old medical student in Kabul, Sept. 11 meant ``a complete change of every aspect of life, politics, economics, education'' in Afghanistan. Before that day, ``no country paid any attention to Afghanistan,'' he said.

``At that time no one knew that the al-Qaida network was so strong,'' Nasir said. ``Even Kabuli people didn't know that the Taliban together with al-Qaida could do such a thing to the United States.''

But the events that followed touched the lives of every Afghan. The United States spearheaded a military assault to oust the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida. By late 2001, the Islamic hard-liners were toppled, and laws prohibiting girls from studying and women from working, and the playing of music and watching TV, were history.

Leila Ahmadi and her family came back to Kabul about five months ago and live now in the southwest of the city, an area devastated by civil war between 1992-1996, until the Taliban seized control from feuding factions and stopped the fighting.

``Two years ago, I was in Iran and didn't follow the news. Sept. 11 doesn't mean anything to me but I'm happy to be back. It's much better now that the war is over,'' said the 25-year-old refugee. ``It's our country, you know.''

Kabul's streets now bustle with traffic and commerce. ``Life has changed a lot for me because now business is very good and I'm happy about this and about the reconstruction work that is going on,'' Wali Ahmad said.

But Fazel Amin, 28, an Education Ministry employee, said Afghans need more help from the international community to bring stability, security and rebuild a country battered by 23 years of war. ``During the Taliban regime, everyone could travel at night and day wherever they wanted and now it's difficult. There are robberies around the country, they kill people and steal their property.''

Over the past year, some Afghans like Amin have become frustrated with the slow progress of reconstruction. ``Lots of money comes to Afghanistan through foreign governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but they don't spend it on reconstruction; they put it in their pockets,'' he said. ``We need job opportunities and good salaries to work for our country.''