ASADABAD -- Forty-six fighters belonging to the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) laid down their arms on March 5 in Kunar Province, taking the tally of surrendered members of the insurgent outfit in one week to 336.
"ISIS is about to be wiped out. Forty-six ISIS fighters who were operating in the Dewagal Valley of Sawkai District surrendered their weapons today and gave up fighting," Kunar Governor Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal told reporters in Asadabad as the ex-insurgents were presented to the media.
"These ISIS fighters have lost the ability to fight since we have intensified our attacks on them," he added. "They either have to fight and die or surrender."
"Looking at these series of surrenders, there may be very few ISIS fighters left in the mountains and they will surrender very soon," Mirzakwal said.
"ISIS fighters who were operating in the mountains of Sawkai, Nurgal, Chapa Dara, Manogi, and Watapur districts of Kunar Province came in large groups," he said.
In the past week, 336 ISIS members have surrendered, including eight commanders, said Mirzakwal.
ISIS is feeling the pressure from ramped up security operations, said Col. Shafiqullah Sahar, Kunar chief of police.
"We have intensified our operations against ISIS," he said at the event. "The surrender of this group and others shows our strength as we have been attacking their positions with full force."
"ISIS is almost eliminated in Kunar, and you will see more fighters surrender soon," said Sahar.
"ISIS fighters joined the group without much awareness and were fighting blindly," Abdul Latif Fazli, deputy chairman of the Kunar provincial council, said at the ceremony. "They have now realised that they were not fighting for Islam but for the destruction of the country."
"Therefore, they come in groups and surrender," he said. "This will help the local population return to a normal life and live without any fear."
Residents eager for a return to peace
"We call on all militants to stop," Fazli added. "They cannot win this war but just destroy their country by killing innocent civilians They should lay down their arms and allow us to live a normal life."
"I hope that the few ISIS stragglers left in the mountains come in, hand over their weapons and live like other normal people," he said.
"ISIS's war is completely un-Islamic and against the principles of Sharia," said Mawlawi Najibullah Haqyar, a religious scholar in Kunar Province.
"There are no foreigners or non-Muslims here, so against whom are they waging their jihad here?" he asked. "They should not ruin their own lives and the lives of others anymore, and instead they should come and lay down their arms."
"We cannot stand this war anymore and want peace," he added. "Every soldier of ours is the guardian of this country. Our soldiers are far better Muslims than the ISIS and Taliban members."
Residents of the area are fed up with insurgent violence, said Faqirullah Haqqani, a resident of Asadabad.
"I am very happy to hear that ISIS militants have come and surrendered to the government en masse," the shop owner said. "We haven't been able to live a normal life in the last 40 years.
"I grew up in war, and now I have a white beard, but the war has not yet ended," he added. "Neither the Taliban nor ISIS should fight anymore for the interests of outsiders. They must let us live a peaceful life.
"I lost a son and two nephews to the war who were members of the Afghan National Army (ANA)," Haqqani said. "Their wives are widows now, and we can't afford to support or educate their children.
"We have suffered greatly from the war and know exactly what the cost of war is. Therefore, we want peace in this country," he said.