KABUL -- A group of more than 200 Taliban members who fought Afghan government forces in the Alborz mountains of Balkh Province surrendered April 1, officials told Salaam Times.
Most of the surrendering fighters said they were deceived by Taliban militants and now want to join the peace process.
"More than 200 armed Taliban members with their weapons and equipment -- along with their commanders Mullah Sabawoon [aka Dawa Khan] and Khan Mohammad Cherik -- joined the peace process," Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the governor of Balkh Province, told Salaam Times April 2.
These Taliban members' participation in the peace process plays an effective role in bringing security and stability to the northern zone, he said.
"The local government and [provincial] High Peace Council [HPC] have set forth several plans to help improve the lives of former Taliban members who lay down their arms, renounce terrorism and join the peace process," Farhad said.
"It includes providing these former militants with employment opportunities, utilising them to bring security and stability to the regions that these very Taliban members made unsafe and insecure, and lastly, including them in the local police."
The surrendering Taliban members turned over scores of light and heavy weapons in the presence of provincial police and civilians officials and members of the Balkh HPC, according to Farhad.
"They pledged that from now on, they will work to provide security, they will fight the Taliban and they will spare no effort in developing their regions," he said.
'We were deceived'
The two former Taliban commanders spoke with Salaam Times about their regrets.
"We were deceived by Taliban leaders, and we regret our wrongdoings," Cherik told Salaam Times, speaking on behalf of himself, Sabawoon and the rest of the former Taliban members.
"Our path was the wrong path, and the Afghan people are right," he said. "We have realised that the Taliban and its leaders have no plans for prosperity and peace or for the security in Afghanistan. In fact, their sole purpose is to destroy Afghanistan and to murder the Afghan people."
"From now on, we are not going to be deceived by terror groups and will never again shed the blood of our brothers," Sabawoon said.
"We pledge that we will never again jeopardise people's safety and security, and we will be working on bringing back peace and on reconstructing our regions," he told Salaam Times.
For many years, these two former Taliban commanders were directly responsible for insecurity and instability in the Chamtal and Sholgara districts of Balkh Province, according to Farhad.
'War is not the solution'
"The joining of these 200 Taliban members in the peace process is in the interest of peace and stability," said Muhammad Ismail Qasemyar, international relations adviser to the national HPC.
"More than 11,000 insurgents have joined the peace process ... since the establishment of the [national] HPC [in 2010]," he told Salaam Times.
"The [HPC], with funding from the UN and some of the countries which partner with and support Afghanistan, has paid various sums to the members of the Taliban who put down arms and cease conducting acts of terrorism," he said. "Moreover, the [HPC] also made it possible for them to find employment in both public and private institutions."
"War is not the solution in Afghanistan," Qasemyar said, adding that the Taliban who have fought for years have achieved nothing more than wreaking havoc.
"The joining of this Taliban group to the peace process will solve security problems in the Alborz area," Mohammad Afzal Hadid, chairman of the Balkh Provincial Council, told Salaam Times.
"We're trying to utilise this group of 200 Taliban members in the interest of peace and stability," he said. "Meanwhile, we promise that we will support them and protect their lives and property."