JALALABAD -- Operations by Afghan forces to clear Taliban members in Sherzad District of Nangarhar Province are succeeding, officials say, and efforts against the militants will intensify if they do not lay down their arms and surrender.
"It has been more than a month since we started operations against the Taliban in Sherzad District. We launched these operations after the Taliban increased their attacks on police checkpoints," Brig. Gen. Mohammad Karim Niazi, commander of the Afghan National Army (ANA)'s 4th Brigade, told reporters on October 2 in Sherzad District.
"We have captured De Saakhi, Bara Saakhi, Lawr Kalay and Mamakhail Bazaar, and we are advancing."
Residents have returned to their homes in many of the areas that they deserted earlier for fear of the Taliban, said Niazi.
"We have also blocked the Taliban's supply line from Pacheragam District," he said. "Now, they will either be killed or stop fighting and come make peace."
Security forces have established four outposts in key regions and plan to establish more in other areas, said Niazi.
Prepared to keep fighting
Afghan forces always remain on standby to fight the enemy, Niazi said.
"We are hopeful for peace, but if the Taliban do not accept a peace offer, then the entire world will realise that this group does not want peace," he said. "We will also demonstrate our power to them."
Obaidullah Sawi, an ANA soldier in Sherzad District, said he prefers peace but is prepared to continue fighting.
"We want the war to end in this country so that no mother cries for her children and peace prevails," he said. "But if the Taliban do not make peace and continue violence, then I will fight until my last breath and protect my land."
Faqirullah Tasal, a resident of the Tutu area of Sherzad District, said that he is glad to see the improved security due to the measures taken by government forces.
"We are happy with the operation and because government forces came and cleared these areas. They established outposts here, but the important thing is to clear the northern areas as well and set up outposts," Tasal said.
"If troops do not establish these outposts, the Taliban will return and cause problems for those who supported the government."
"We want the government to succeed," said Wafiullah Noor, a resident of Sherzad District who was forced to move his family and relatives to Khogyani District because of Taliban attacks. "They [troops and insurgents] used to fight every day when the Taliban were here, and we were sick of it."
"It is good that the government extended its presence, and we pray that the ANA can clear the rest of the areas as well."
Ajmal Omar, the deputy chairman of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, called on the government to start development projects in areas cleared of the Taliban.
"Our request is to hold the cleared areas and all other areas and implement projects once the operations end, since authorities have implemented no projects in those areas in the last two decades because of the Taliban's presence. This [hiatus] has left the locals gravely deprived."
"First, we want an end to the war and hope that the peace talks will be successful. Both the army and the Taliban are Afghans, and their deaths bring sorrow to their families. We want peace and projects for local residents," he added.
Officials will implement new projects in Sherzad District to improve the lives of civilians, said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor.
"Once we conclude operations and clear the areas, more reconstruction projects will be implemented in Sherzad and other war-torn areas," Khogyani said.
"We are trying to deliver services to locals in agriculture, education, health and other sectors. We have already started acting on this to provide new and reconstruction projects to residents of Sherzad and other neighbouring districts. We are committed," he added.