KABUL -- A number of former Taliban officials, some of whom were close aides to late Taliban supreme commander Mullah Omar, have returned to various southern provinces of Afghanistan, including Kandahar and Helmand.
Mullah Omar died in 2013, but the Taliban did not disclose his death until 2015.
Mullah Lutfullah Agha, father-in-law to a brother of Mullah Omar (Mullah Mannan Akhund), is among these former Taliban officials who have chosen a peaceful life with their families, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq confirmed August 26.
"Among the former Taliban officials who recently returned to the south because of efforts by security forces and tribal elders were 17 individuals who, during the Taliban regime [1996-2001], worked at the Defence and Foreign ministries and as provincial governors," said Raziq at a Kandahar news conference.
Those ex-Taliban officials live peacefully with their families now and no longer wish to fight, he said.
The 17 pacified former Taliban include "Mullah Abdurrauf, a member of the Quetta Council (Shura)'s economic committee; Muallem Feda, a former senior member of the Taliban military council who has close ties with Mullah Sherin, the current head of the Taliban intelligence agency; and Mohammadullah Khan, a former Taliban military commander," a source in Kandahar Province told Salaam Times on condition of anonymity.
During the Taliban rule of Afghanistan, Muallem Feda commanded Mullah Omar's security detail, said the source, adding that Muallem Feda and his family returned to Kandahar Province three months ago.
Pleas for other Taliban to follow
Many Afghans welcome the Taliban's integration into the peace process.
"The Taliban are part of the Afghan community," Obaidullah Barakzai, a member of parliament from Uruzgan Province who belongs to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami Party, told Salaam Times. "I welcome the return of these Taliban officials and their families. This is another step towards peace and stability in our country."
"I call on other Taliban members to follow the example of these 17 former Taliban regime officials who have just stopped fighting," Barakzai said. "Do not destroy your country anymore. Choose a peaceful life, and join the peace process."
The return of Taliban families to the southern provinces will help the peace process, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was the Taliban regime's ambassador to Islamabad, told Voice of America's Radio Ashna.
"Our dream is to end the war and to bring peace to Afghanistan," said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Defence Ministry. "Every member of the Taliban who stops fighting and gives up arms is our brother. Our government and security forces will embrace him with open arms."
"I promise them, on behalf of the security and defence forces, that we will protect their lives, property and families anywhere they live in Afghanistan," Waziri told Salaam Times.
Resolution to prevail
"But whoever fights us is our enemy," added Waziri. "We will destroy them as long as we have a drop of blood in our bodies."
"Peace and prosperity will prevail in Afghanistan only through the peace process and intra-Afghan dialogue," said Najibullah Azad, deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
"The Taliban's 16-year war against the government and the people ... have achieved nothing except the destruction of Afghanistan, the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Afghans, and the creation of thousands of widows and tens of thousands of orphans," he added.
"If the Taliban continue their war, then their future, their children's future, and the future of other Afghans will be ruined," said Azad.