Daoud Sultanzoy, the 66-year-old mayor of Kabul appointed by the Ashraf Ghani government, has said he owed people a “responsibility that you cannot throw away frivolously” as he continued to show up for work under the Taliban.
Though the Taliban has named Hamdullah Nomani as the new administrator for Kabul, Mr Sultanzoy, appointed by the then president of Afghanistan, continued to come to work. In fact, the two men have been sharing office space in Kabul.
Mr Nomani served as the city’s mayor during the first Taliban regime in the late 90s.
After the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan mid-August, thousands of people, including the president, ministers, activists and locals, tried to flee the country.
The Taliban reportedly called Mr Sultanzoy, a former US citizen, and promised to provide him security. He soon resumed work, ensuring that tasks such as trash collection and sanitisation went on uninterrupted.
Mr Sultanzoy is the most prominent official from the fallen Afghan government to still hold office. He was appointed mayor in 2020.
“This is a responsibility that you cannot throw away frivolously because you just say, ‘Oh, I don’t like these people’,” he told the Wall Street Journal recently. “I was assigned to serve this city, and I am still serving this city.”
Emphasising that he was not involved in the Taliban’s politics, Ms Sultanzoy said: “I am here because I am responsible to the people of Kabul, and I’ve decided to stick to it.”
However, he added that he found some of the Taliban members tolerant. “I am not saying I’ve met everybody, I am sure there are other elements. But the ones I have met are very polite, very understanding,” he said.
A pilot by profession and trained in the US, Mr Sultanzoy returned to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack in 2001 to help the post-Taliban government. He was born in Kabul and fought against the Soviet Union in the early 1980s.
He relinquished his US passport in 2014. His wife, who was Miss Afghanistan in 1972, and his children are in the US and are “supportive” of his decision to serve in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Kabul’s new administrator Mr Nomani said the Taliban leadership did not have any problem with Mr Sultanzoy. “Anyone who has served honestly and has a good record, and that includes the mayor, the deputy mayor and other directors, they are all our friends, we have not brought any change to these positions,” he said.
Women employees in the Kabul city government were told to stay home by the Taliban.