KABUL -- Disillusioned with their commanders' leadership, scores of Taliban militants across Afghanistan in the past few months have renounced violence, surrendered to the Afghan government, and joined the peace process, local officials and former Taliban members told Salaam Times.
In the most recent case, two groups of Taliban members who fought against government forces in Badakhshan Province surrendered on December 6 after realising their war was unjust.
"An 11-member group of Taliban in Shohada District and a 20-member group of Taliban in Yamgan District under the command of Qari Mehrab surrendered with their weapons to the government forces," Naweed Forootan, a spokesman for the governor of Badakhshan, told Salaam Times.
Mehrab, who underwent terrorist training in Pakistan, had been fighting Afghan government forces in Badakhshan Province for the past five years. He was among the surrendering militants, Forootan confirmed.
"Understanding the legitimacy of the Afghan government, families of Taliban members also put pressure on their children, urging them to stop the war and to join the government," Forootan said.
The Taliban have lost popular support and their morale is deteriorating, he said.
'Our fight was not jihad'
Mahmood, 35, who requested an alias to protect his identity, said he fought against the Afghan government for two years alongside the Taliban. He recently switched sides along with some of his colleagues.
"I know now that we were wrong because our fight was not jihad. Instead, it was animosity towards our own people," he told Salaam Times.
Mahmood recalled the day he and his colleagues came to the conclusion that their Taliban commanders were leading them astray.
After they sat together and discussed the concept of "jihad" in the context of Afghanistan, they concluded that they must stop fighting, they must never again fight their own government and their own people based on orders they receive from foreigners, and they must join the peace process, he said.
"Although all the Taliban leaders live abroad where they enjoy peace and comfort, they encourage people to go to war in the name of 'jihad', a move that has caused destruction to the country," Mahmood said.
"The Taliban members who fight on battlefields have been deceived by their leaders into thinking that they are conducting an act of jihad on the path of God," said Momen Mayar, 30, who works at a private company in Kabul.
"With the passing of each day, however, they understand more and they realise that they made a mistake," he told Salaam Times.
"When the Taliban fighters stop and ask themselves, 'do murdering Muslim people and destroying streets, mosques and homes of civilians constitute jihad?' it means that they already know that they have made a mistake and they have been deceived by their treacherous leaders," Momen said.
Understanding truth, seeking peace
Fragmentation among the militant leaders, coupled with recent victories by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), has caused militants to stop fighting, said Muhammad Behrooz, a Kabul-based security analyst.
"In addition, the decrease in the amount of financial assistance received by the militants has sapped their morale," he told Salaam Times.
In order to raise money and to retain their fighters, Taliban leaders are seeking close relationships with some foreign countries, including Iran, Behrooz said.
"Once the militants realise the truth about peace, they will refrain from further fighting and will join the peace process," said Muhammad Ismail Qasemyar, an adviser to Afghanistan's High Peace Council.
The peace process has become stronger with more groups of opposing forces giving up fighting, he said, without providing exact figures on the number of militant groups who have defected to the Afghan government.
"The Taliban, too, are tired. They realise that the war has no benefit for them and war is not the solution," he told Salaam Times.