KANDAHAR -- Dozens of Taliban prisoners who have recently been released from prison as part of the peace process detailed the extensive role foreign governments have played in the ongoing war against the Afghan nation.
Before their release, inmates were required to sign a pledge that they would not pick up arms again, however many have later vowed to continue the war.
Liberated from prisons in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, in addition to the Pul-e-Charkhi facility in Kabul and Bagram prison in Parwan, some of the recently freed said that the war has been a brutal disaster that serves the interests of neighbouring countries such as Iran.
Rahimullah Zabuli, a 36-year-old resident of Qalat, Zabul Province, fought alongside the Taliban for six years before he was captured by Afghan forces in 2016 during a firefight.
"I served four years in prison. Thanks to the peace talks, I was released from the Zabul Central Jail on the fifth day of Eid ul Fitr," Zabuli said. "I am very grateful to the Afghan government for its act of compassion."
"I regret my past action, and the things I did while serving in the Taliban ranks such as fighting and harassing civilians are totally forbidden and against all Islamic and human values," he added.
"The Taliban leaders have become millionaires in the current war waged by the Taliban movement," he added. "Their children are getting their higher education in major Pakistani cities, while poor people like me fight and sacrifice for their interests and spend time in prison."
"I call on all those Taliban who are still fighting in the Taliban ranks to not sacrifice themselves for this damn war anymore since the war in Afghanistan is neither ours nor is it jihad," Zabuli said.
Paid for destruction
Mullah Mohammad Karim Akhund, a 55-year-old former Taliban commander and a resident of Arghandab District in Kandahar Province, was released from Kandahar prison on June 2.
He was captured in 2009 in the Bahramcha village of Shah Wali Kot District during an operation by Afghan forces.
"I fought in the ranks of the Taliban against the oppressed Afghan nation since the launch of the Taliban Emirate in 1994," he said. "In the early days of the Afghan government, I went to Pakistan and met with the leaders of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence agency] in the Chawnai area of Quetta, Balochistan Province," Akhund said.
"They gave me instructions to destroy bridges, schools, clinics and government buildings in Afghanistan. In return for each destructive act, they would give me a lot of money," he added.
"While serving time in prison, I realised that the crimes we, the Taliban, have committed against this nation are not forgivable," Akhund said. "I now regret my previous actions, since thousands of women lost their husbands and thousands of children lost their parents because of our illegitimate war."
Mohammad Qasim Jihadwal, a 43-year-old resident of Garmsir District in Helmand Province, was captured in 2013 in Sangin District, Helmand, while fighting against the Afghan and foreign forces. He was held in Bagram prison.
On the third day of Eid ul Fitr, Jihadwal was released.
"I joined the Taliban in 2004, and then at the request of Iranian intelligence, I went to Mashhad, Iran, where I met with some Iranian military officers," he said. "They told me that if I fight against the Afghan government and international military forces, they would provide us with any kind of resources."
"Following their instructions, I committed many destructive activities that I am now ashamed of even mentioning or explaining," he added. "In return for targeting civilians or Afghan security forces with land mines or fighting them, I would receive from 100,000 to 500,000 AFN ($1,300-$6,400)."
"Families of a number of Taliban leaders are still based in Iran," Jihadwal said. "No Taliban leader checked on my family or provided them with any assistance while I was serving time in prison."
"All my children remained illiterate, while at the same time all the people in my village faced poverty. In light of these circumstances, I will never rejoin the Taliban but will only work towards peace," he said.
'We will continue our jihad'
To be sure, the move by Afghan authorities to open prison doors for thousands of Taliban inmates is a gambit as some liberated fighters have pledged to return to the battlefield.
"If the Americans do not pull out, we will continue our jihad, because they have killed many Afghans in their operations," Mohamed Daud, who was freed from a Bagram jail in May, told AFP.
US forces arrested Daud, 28, in Faryab Province nine years ago.
A Taliban commander in Pakistan told AFP there should be "no ambiguity" that the released men will eventually be deployed to Afghanistan's front lines.
"It's an ongoing jihad, and will continue until and unless we reach some sort of agreement with the Kabul government," he said.
Even with the risk that some fighters may return to the battlefield, the release of Taliban prisoners by the government is a positive step, said Mohammad Daud Asas, a Kabul-based political analyst.
He called on the militant group to use the peace process wisely and end the war.
"The Taliban should not kill Afghans," he said. "They should bring their families from Iran and Pakistan to Afghanistan and join the peace process here."
Meanwhile, security officials insisted that Afghan security forces are fully prepared for both war and peace, and called on the Taliban to stop killing innocent citizens or risk a strong backlash.
"We welcome steps taken [by President Ashraf Ghani] to accelerate the peace process and release Taliban prisoners, but the Taliban must clearly understand that Afghan security forces are fully prepared for both war and peace," warned Col. Hekmatullah Kochai, Zabul's chief of police.
"The Taliban should not kill and harass innocent people anymore," he said.