KABUL -- Following intense ground and air assaults on Taliban strongholds in Sar-e-Pul Province, 45 Taliban militants have left the battlefield and surrendered to security forces.
The demoralised militants joined the peace process in the Shiramha area of Gosfandi District on April 5, bringing their weapons with them, local authorities and Ministry of Defence officials said.
"Eleven villages in Gosfandi District of Sar-e-Pul Province were freed of the Taliban by security force ... operations and by popular uprisings," Zabiullah Amani, a spokesman for the Sar-e-Pul governor, told Salaam Times.
"Fourteen of this group's fighters, including the deputy Taliban shadow governor [for Gosfandi District] Qari Amin, were killed, while six others were wounded," he said.
"Forty-five Taliban fighters left the battlefields with their weapons and joined the [peace] process because of the severity of the attacks on the Taliban strongholds and also because of the popular uprisings," Amani said.
"The former Taliban militants who have joined the peace process have pledged to fight alongside the security forces against the Taliban and to prevent the Taliban from causing insecurity in their areas," he said.
"We will use former Taliban members who have joined the peace process within the ranks of the popular uprisings so they [the uprising units] can defend their villages," he said.
Taliban face 'heavy blows' on battlefield
"In order to provide peace and security throughout Sar-e-Pul Province, Afghan National Defence and Security Forces launched in this province a four-day clearance operation called Walid-3," Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry, told Salaam Times. "The operation ended successfully April 5."
"During Operation Walid-3, which was carried out in the Shiramha area of Gosfandi District ... security forces dealt heavy blows to the Taliban," he said, adding that they destroyed five Taliban positions.
"Qari Amin's corpse was found on the battlefield by the security forces," he added, referring to the slain shadow deputy governor.
"As a result of this operation, five local Taliban commanders -- Mullah Khudaidad, Mullah Sayyed Ahmad, Mullah Qasem, Mullah Rasul and Mullah Aslam -- with 40 of their fighters and 45 light and heavy weapons ... surrendered," Radmanesh said.
"We, the government and its security forces, welcome with open arms those former Taliban members who give up fighting ... and join the peace process," he said. "As for those who refuse to make peace, we'll do everything in our power to crush them."
"Jihad is not permissible in Afghanistan," said Mullah Khudaidad, one of the former Taliban commanders who joined the peace process. "I have joined the peace process and have decided that I no longer want to hurt people or to defame Islam."
"I want to fight the Taliban with the help of the government," he pledged.
Mohammad Suhrab, a farmer in Gosfandi District, said he was "very happy to see that our area is freed from the Taliban".
"We can now continue to live our lives," he told Salaam Times. "For two years, the Taliban had control over our area, during which time they committed many atrocities. For instance, they imposed ushr on our farmland and livestock, and those who refused to pay ushr and zakat were tortured."