KABUL -- Afghan citizens, officials and religious scholars are showing their appreciation for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF)'s role in establishing peace and stability in the country.
The ANDSF are the heroes of the country and everyone is proud of them, said Hamidzai Lali, a member of parliament representing Kandahar Province.
"These heroes are sacrificing their lives and bringing hope to the people," he told Salaam Times.
"The army is working together with the people to stabilise the country and bring hope back to the nation," Ministry of Defence spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri told Salaam Times.
Sacrificing for peace
Zikrullah Khan, a native of Kabul and father of two children, is now in Baghlan, serving as a lieutenant with the Afghan National Police. His posting in Baghlan comes after long stays of duty in Helmand and Kandahar.
Khan said that he misses his family in Kabul but that his work protecting others makes his father proud and helps bring peace to the country he wants his children to inherit.
"I sacrifice my happiness to see others happy," he told Salaam Times. "Making this country safe and seeing people live happy lives bring me more joy than I can explain in words. I'm proud knowing I chose the right path."
Mehdi, a sergeant in the Afghan National Army (ANA), tells a similar story of self-sacrifice for his country.
Mehdi is from Logar Province but has served in the army in Herat, Kabul, Parwan, Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul, Faryab and Baghlan.
He joined the ANA four years ago after insurgents killed his older brother. He vowed at that time to stand up for his countrymen against the insurgents, even if it meant spending months away from his family in Logar.
"My colleagues and I pray five times every day, and we know we have chosen the right path, based on the teachings of Islam and the constitution of Afghanistan," he told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban misrepresent the verses of the holy Koran, mislead people and try to convince them to commit sinful criminal acts," he said. "They interfere with the calm lives of people and involve people in their criminal activities."
"Standing against those who attempt to mislead people is the real jihad," he said.
In Kandahar, commandos from the 205th Hero Corps of the ANA say they spend much of their time traversing difficult terrain tracking criminal insurgent groups.
The sacrifice and hardship are worth it for the betterment of Afghanistan, they say.
"We go to wherever insurgents are hiding," said General Hazaar Mir Amiri, commander of the Hero Corps' 3rd Zmari Battalion.
"All of our countrymen, even those living in the most remote areas or those threatened and intimidated by the insurgents, will receive our protection, he told Salaam Times. "Simply put, I can say our commandos are battle-hardened heroes."
United against the Taliban
The Taliban try to force local families to cook meals for, give money to and provide militants with shelter, said Nawab Meyakhil, 61, an elder in Totakhail village, Baghlan Province.
"They are enemies of peace, stability, progress and humanity," he told Salaam Times. "[The insurgents] hate seeing the positive development of Afghanistan. The people don't support them. We support the ANDSF -- they are in our hearts, and we pray for them day and night.”"
ANA soldiers sweep for mines planted by insurgents, clearing a safe path for families and children, said Rafiullah, 37, a schoolteacher in Baghlan Province.
"Now we can play in the playgrounds and fear nothing from our enemies," he told Salaam Times, adding that he is proud of the "real heroes" in the army.
Religious scholars also praise Afghan soldiers for their sacrifices and dedication to Islam.
The ANDSF are helping people to stay safe and offering hope for the future, Kabul-based religious scholar Mulvi Muhammad Ayaz Niazi said.
"In the line of duty, they are facing many problems, but still they are continuing to work and serve the nation," he told Salaam Times.
"The ANDSF are the true heroes who fight for peace in accordance with Islam," Maulvi Mohammad Mohsin Danish, a member of the Balkh Province Ulema Council, told Salaam Times.