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20230107-Kabul

Taliban Rulers Are Changing The Face Of Kabul

The Kabul municipal government, which provides utility services to homes and businesses, is setting out to improve some neglected corridors of the city. It has 180 projects underway, including planting trees on median strips, erecting traffic-circle monuments, and building major roads from scratch.

In the affluent downtown enclave of Sherpur, walls surrounding abandoned mansions of past warlords and government officials have been removed. Bulldozers have been grading and paving streets that were once closed to the public. Residents will now have shorter commutes.

A 10-year-old boy who was playing cricket on a newly graded block said, “This is where powerful people lived. I was never allowed here.”

Dasht-i-Barchi is a run-down district on the other side of the city. It is home to many ethnic Shiites. Municipal crews are smashing old houses to rubble to make way for a connecting road to a major highway.

A 68-year-old resident named Shahruddin watched workers destroy a row of old mud-brick homes with sledgehammers. Some residents may be worried about being compensated for their properties. “We have been waiting a long time for this,” said Shahruddin, “The Taliban are more honest than past governments, so we have to trust they will pay.”

According to Naimatullah Barakzai, the spokesman for Kabul’s reconstruction initiative, all international development projects stopped after the Taliban took power last year. “We don’t want to wait for them to start again. We don’t want to depend on foreign aid,” he said. “We want to solve our own problems. We want to make the city beautiful. We don’t want people to think Kabul is ruined or that we don’t care about culture.”

The Taliban religious militia first took power in Kabul in 1996 after a civil war that left much of the capital in ruins. Their five-year reign was marked by the destruction of non-Islamic antiquities and landmarks, including the towering 6th-century Buddha statues carved into cliffs in the northern province of Bamian.

During the past 20 years of elected civilian governments, Kabul underwent a construction boom. It was driven by Western aid and development projects. They introduced high-rise apartments and supermarkets and sleek fashion malls. Some areas had paved streets and storm drains. But years of constant warfare kept foreign investment away. Refugees who returned after years in Iran and Pakistan swamped poor communities, many of which were already crowded and barely habitable.

A Taliban security guard named Khairullah may not speak for all the inhabitants of Kabul, but his satisfaction with what the Taliban is doing is shared by many. “This makes me feel like we have done something useful, that all my years of fighting were worth it,” he said. “We have brought peace, men are growing beards and going to mosques, and citizens are walking freely.”

Other public projects are informed by Islamic fundamentalists’ thinking . City workers are removing traffic circle monuments honoring slain anti-Taliban leaders. They will replace human likenesses with abstract art pieces.

To segregate women the Taliban is training female doctors.

Meanwhile public executions and whippings in Afghanistan mark the revival of Taliban punishments.

This report portrays a picture of the Taliban that is much different than what we have given in the past. It shows the Taliban operating as a governing body, with aims to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of Afghanistan. This does not take away from the fact that they came to power by force, and not by the will of the people. But it is encouraging that for the citizens of Afghanistan, life may not be as bad as we once thought it would be.



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