KUNDUZ -- A recent Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) operation in Badakhshan Province forced dozens of Taliban fighters to flee before surrendering to the government in Takhar Province on September 13, according to local officials.
After the ANDSF recaptured the Keran Wa Manjan and Yamgan districts of Badakhshan, 42 Taliban fighters found themselves without a place to hide.
"The ANDSF recently conducted air and ground operations in districts of Badakhshan Province ... and after seeing the military pressure, the group [of Taliban fighters] escaped to neighbouring Warsaj District, Takhar Province," said Abdul Khalil Aseer, a spokesman for the Takhar police.
"These Taliban fighters handed over 33 weapons including two PK machine guns, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher and Kalashnikovs AK-47s to the security forces," he said.
These operations are part of the ramped up military pressure that Afghan and coalition forces have carried out against the Taliban over the past few weeks, killing hundreds of militant commanders and leaving fighters with fewer and fewer places to hide.
The leader of the group, Qari Qamaruddin, is among those who surrendered, Aseer said.
Regretting the war
"My son was a Taliban fighter," Qamaruddin told a reporter from Mah-e-Now TV after the surrender ceremony.
After his son was killed in combat, he decided to fight the government, he said.
"I have been with the Taliban for three years, during which I suffered much pain and went through difficult times," he said. "I missed my family and children every moment."
"Because of increased ground attacks and air strikes on us, we had to escape to Warsaj District of Takhar Province to avoid being killed," Qamaruddin said.
"There, we got in contact with National Directorate of Security officials and the local government through tribal elders of Warsaj District, and today we have come to join the government," he said. "We regret the actions we have committed for the past few years."
Other disillusioned Taliban fighters in the area sought out Qamaruddin before surrendering.
"We contacted Qari Qamaruddin and came together with him," said Muhammad Azeem Ahadi, 36, another former fighter and resident of Yamgan District.
"Now, we know the reality," he said. "We will no longer fall prey to the tricks of others, and we will work for the prosperity of our country."
"We can't face our people out of shame," he said. "We apologise to our people."
Crackdown on militants
"Government forces have increased their air and ground operations," Takhar Police Chief Gen. Sayed Mirajuddin Sadaat said in an interview.
In the four days leading up to the Taliban fighters' surrender, the ANDSF "cleaned Darqad, Yangi Qala, Khwaja Ghar and some parts of Khwaja Bahauddin and Ishkamish districts of Takhar Province from the Taliban," he said.
"Our forces have inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban, and they gain morale by the day," Sadaat said.