After attending the funeral of a fellow United Airlines pilot who was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Daoud Sultanzoy decided to return to his native Afghanistan and help build its post-Taliban government.
These days, the 66-year-old mayor of Kabul is the most prominent official from the fallen Afghan republic to remain in his job after the Taliban returned to power on Aug. 15.
Every morning, Mr. Sultanzoy, saluted by the municipality’s uniformed guards, runs up the staircase to the same spacious office he now shares with a senior Taliban official.
“I’m not involved in any of their politics but I am here because I am responsible to the people of Kabul, and I’ve decided to stick to it,” Mr. Sultanzoy says, seated at his desk as municipality staff pass him paperwork to sign. “This is a responsibility that you cannot throw away frivolously because you just say, ‘Oh, I don’t like these people’.”
A day after the fall of the Afghan republic, as thousands of desperate members of the former government tried to escape via the U.S.-controlled airport, the Taliban contacted Mr. Sultanzoy to tell him that they guaranteed his security.
His return to office ensured that some vital municipal services in the capital, such as trash collection and sanitation, remained uninterrupted.
The mayor’s unusual and precarious position exposes the complexities of Afghanistan’s transitional period, as well as the Taliban’s attempts to move from a brutal rural insurgency to a government that can manage a country of 40 million and run its modern cities such as Kabul, home to one in eight Afghans. [Continue reading…]