KABUL -- Hardcore elements of the Taliban have pledged allegiance to international terrorist groups and reject the peace process in Afghanistan.
At the same time, scores of Taliban militants 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.
The UN in December reiterated its calls on the international community and all Afghans, including the Taliban, to enter "peace talks" to end the suffering of the Afghan people.
"It takes courage to enter into a peace process," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan. "It is not an admission of defeat; it is a recognition of reality," as an "endless war ruins the country."
The only path to a meaningful peace is by Afghans talking directly with Afghans, he said, asking for the Taliban to participate in sincere peace talks "without preconditions".
"The Taliban leadership must reconsider the notion that its objectives can only be achieved on the battlefield," he said.
Taliban surrender, seek peace
In early December, two groups of Taliban members who fought against government forces in Badakhshan Province surrendered after realising their war was unjust.
Qari Mehrab, who underwent terrorist training in Pakistan and had been fighting Afghan troops in Badakhshan Province for the past five years, was among the surrendering militants, Naweed Forootan, a spokesman for the governor of Badakhshan, told Salaam Times.
Mahmood, 35, a former Taliban fighter who requested an alias to protect his identity, said he joined Afghan forces after he realised the error of his ways.
"I know now that we were wrong because our fight was not 'jihad'," he told Salaam Times. "Instead, it was animosity towards our own people."
Fractured Taliban turn to outsiders
Nonetheless, a die-hard element of Taliban fighters is turning towards international terrorist groups and foreign countries, seeking financial support and legitimacy.
In a recent video posted on the Taliban's websites and social media, this faction rejected "peace talks" and emphasised its on-going relationship with al-Qaeda.
"The Taliban and al-Qaeda are two terrorist groups that have long proven their animosity towards the people of Afghanistan," said Mahmoud Zia, 40, a small business owner residing in Kabul.
"The Afghan people still remember this group's dark history in Afghanistan, how they mass murdered many innocent people, and how they incinerated [those people's] homes," he told Salaam Times.
The Taliban's leadership has become fractured after the death of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor, killed in Pakistan last May, observers say.
"Taliban members are no longer gathered under one umbrella and have been divided into scattered groups unable to make decisions," said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a leading member of the Afghan High Peace Council.
"Because of recent developments in the region and after receiving financial resources, some of these Taliban's sub-groups are now rejecting peace talks, insisting on their rigid positions," he told Salaam Times.
Al-Qaeda has long been loyal to the Taliban, he said, adding that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, had pledged allegiance to the Taliban during the time of Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban from 1994 until his death in 2013.
Peace beneficial for all Afghans
All those who recognise the legitimacy of the Afghan government and want peace in the country should be welcomed to the table, political leaders and citizens say, while those who support international terrorism and are puppets of foreign countries do not want what is best for Afghanistan.
"During the reign of the Taliban, there were some terrorists from Arab and Central Asian countries in Kabul working with this group," said Zobayr, 36, a Kabul business owner.
"These terrorists are still here, fighting alongside the Taliban, against Afghanistan's security forces and the Afghan people," he told Salaam Times.
These Taliban, who take orders from their masters in foreign countries, do not possess the legitimacy to join the peace talks, said Bashir Bijan, a Kabul-based security analyst and former politician.
"The Taliban have never been concerned with peace," Sayed Jawad Husseini, leader of the Justice and Development Party, told Salaam Times. "Because of their affiliation with terrorists and their supporters, this group is incapable of making its own decisions."
"Peace is beneficial for all the people of Afghanistan," said Kolsoum, a 23-year-old economics student at a private university in Kabul.
"The Taliban, however, proved their hostility towards the Afghan people by rejecting these peace talks," he told Salaam Times.