KUNDUZ -- A top Taliban military chief for Argo, Tishkan and Darayim districts of Badakhshan Province has surrendered to the Afghan government bringing along four of his fighters, citing renewed optimism for the peace process.
"The Taliban have been divided into many groups in Badakhshan, and some of them even don't know the concept of jihad," Mawlawi Abdul Haq, the leader of the group, said during a welcoming ceremony in Faizabad December 24.
"After we fought for nine years, we realised that the Taliban were misusing the name of jihad and were pursuing their own interests," he said.
As the United States presses the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government, it has restored a sense of optimism about peace among Taliban militants, Abdul Haq said.
"The Taliban, like ordinary Afghans, are tired of fighting, and they are counting the minutes until these talks succeed," he said.
Many other Taliban members have been disillusioned by the spike in brutal Taliban violence against civilians, even as the group simultaneously raises hopes about peace negotiations.
"During the past three weeks, more than 20 Taliban fighters have joined the peace process in Badakhshan, surrendering their weapons," Ghawsuddin Rahmani, chairman of the Badakhshan branch of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, told reporters at the December 24 ceremony.
"Military pressure and efforts by religious scholars, clerics, tribal chiefs and elders have caused the Taliban to quit fighting in Badakhshan," he said.
Badakhshan will rapidly become a peaceful province if the government creates jobs for former insurgents fed up with the Taliban's hypocrisy, according to Rahmani.
"We try to create jobs for those who have willingly joined the peace process," he said.
The Afghan government and the provincial peace council have created long-term jobs for reconciled Taliban fighters who have joined the peace process since 2009, he said, adding that they are now able to support their families.
Bad memories under the Taliban
Nawabullah, who surrendered to Afghan forces in Darayim District, fought government troops for four years but now expresses remorse for his past actions.
"We saw how Taliban leaders distribute all the supplies and equipment from neighbouring countries among themselves," he said at the ceremony in Faizabad. "We were tired of this self-dealing ... so we finally decided to surrender."
Firoz, 29, a former Taliban member from Warduj District, has bad memories of his time with the Taliban.
"We saw sodomy practiced among the Taliban," he told reporters, adding that the Taliban's killings and other abuses motivated him to leave the group.
"We regret wasting several years of our lives, but we will now resume our lives with our families," Firoz said.
A peaceful co-existence
Afghanistan's ongoing efforts for peace talks with the Taliban have had a positive impact on the morale of the Taliban in Badakhshan, many of whom are ready to join the government forces, local officials say.
Fighting the government and the public is no solution to the problems facing the country, Badakhshan provincial Governor Ahmad Faisal Begzad said at the welcoming ceremony for the reconciled Taliban members.
"The government has the responsibility to protect the lives of those who join the peace process and provide the necessary facilities for them," he said, adding that the former fighters handed in their Kalashnikovs and their field radios when they surrendered.
"The more Taliban fighters who join the peace process, the more peaceful the country will become," he said, calling on the Taliban and other anti-government elements to stop killing Afghans and to respond to the public's cry for peace.