KUNDUZ -- Fifteen members of the Taliban, including two commanders who had fought against the Afghan government and coalition forces for five years, surrendered to local authorities in Badakhshan Province last week.
The group, led by Mullah Ashoor Muhammad, the Taliban's military commander for Yamgan District, handed over their weapons on August 10 to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Faizabad, the provincial capital.
The group joined the peace process thanks to efforts by NDS officials and after the fighters' realisation that their insurgency was illegitimate, said Naik Muhammad Nazari, spokesman for the Badakhshan governor.
"Two Taliban group leaders -- Mullah Ashoor Muhammad and Ahmadshah Khan -- along with 13 other fighters, joined the peace process in Yamgan District of Badakhshan with their 10 Kalashnikovs [AK-47 rifles]," he said.
Yamgan and Tagab districts are under Taliban control.
"These two were the leaders and commanders of the Taliban in the province, and they were present in all the clashes against the government forces," he said. "They also played a key role in the collapse of Yamgan District."
"With commanders Mullah Ashoor Muhammad and Ahmadshah Khan joining the peace process, the Taliban's morale in Yamgan District has weakened," he added.
Mullah Ashoor Muhammad admitted to fighting government forces. He and his group surrendered after realising the conflict "wasn't legitimate", he said.
"After we captured Yamgan District from the government three years ago, we fought in most of the clashes that took place in Yamgan and other districts of Badakhshan Province," he told a reporter of Radio and Television of Afghanistan (RTA) in Badakhshan.
"I was with the Taliban for five years," he added. "I took part in 'jihad' against the government, most of the time while hungry and thirsty. When I realised that our 'jihad' wasn't legitimate, I contacted the NDS."
"I promise the local government of Badakhshan that after this moment, I will work for the development and prosperity of my country, and I won't fall prey to the tricks of strangers," he said.
The surrender of the fighters is a good sign for the peace process, said Bashir Ahmad Samim, chairman of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, at the ceremony.
"Now the public has realised which direction the government takes and which one the Taliban takes," he said. "We consider the joining of this number of our brothers as a good omen."
"We hope that, as they join, the negotiations in Qatar achieve a result and that we see security throughout the country," he said, referring to talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha.
Regretting the war
Ahmadshah Khan, the other leader of the surrendered group, told RTA that he had fought the government in Yamgan District for eight years and that he lived in the mountains away from his home and community.
"We joined the ranks of the Taliban in the name of 'jihad' and fought for eight years," he said. "Finally, we realised that it wasn't 'jihad', but it was just killing our Muslim brothers in a war of regional intelligence agencies."
"Yamgan District has been under Taliban control for three years," he said. "Every day we witnessed that the Taliban were humiliating, harassing and harming the local population."
"We could no longer stand to see their atrocities," he said. "Our friends decided to come and join the government."
"I regret what I did, as I have now realised which way we were going," said Abdul Rasool, 41, another member of the group. "Most of the Taliban are tired of the war, and they're looking forward to the outcome of the peace talks so that they can lay down their weapons."
The provincial government will help the former fighters find employment and re-assimilate into the community, said Muhammad Zekria Sooda, governor of Badakhshan, at the ceremony.
"I am very happy that this group of 15 admitted reality and joined their government," he said. "I promised them that the government will provide them with all the help they need. As this group joined [the peace process], we'll see big improvements in the security of Badakhshan Province."
"The High Peace Council has created job and livelihood opportunities for Taliban members who had previously joined the peace process, and they now live a dignified life alongside their children and families," he said.