HERAT -- A group of 20 Taliban militants who surrendered earlier this week in Badghis Province said the group has nothing to do with jihad.
"We were told that this is a holy war and that we need to wage jihad, but after a few months, I realised that there is no jihad. All we do is harass civilians and destroy the country," said Bismillah, one of the former Taliban fighters who surrendered on Tuesday (October 13) in Qala-e-Naw. "Taliban religious authorities would tell us to kill anyone who had even worked one day with the government, [that] their death was permissible."
The fighters joined the peace process as a result of efforts by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and tribal elders, according to local officials.
"We later realised that the Taliban Emirate is not for us and that we must stop harassing civilians," Bismillah said, adding most of the Taliban are tired of war and want peace.
"We have harassed many people, but I do not want to continue it. I want to have a peaceful life in which I neither disturb anyone, nor anyone disturbs me," said Ashoor, another surrendered fighter.
"The government is better than the Taliban. I was encouraged by friends to join the government," he said. "My call to other Taliban [fighters] is to come to peace. I will encourage the Taliban to join the peace process as much as I can."
As peace talks have started, war is no longer necessary and everyone is hoping that the talks succeed as soon as possible, Ashoor added.
Gul Ahmad, another one of the former Taliban fighters, said that he is happy to have joined the peace process.
"It is useless to be a member of the Taliban. We were in the mountains day and night. We had no life," he said.
"We were in fear of attacks by security forces day and night. My request to the rest of the Taliban is to renounce war and make peace."
'The doors of peace are open'
Security on the outskirts of Qala-e-Naw city will improve following the surrender of the fighters, Baghdis Governor Hesamuddin Shams told reporters at the ceremony.
"We are hopeful for the talks in Qatar," he said, referring to negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar.
"It is better to stop fighting ... while the peace talks in Doha have started," Shams said. "The doors of peace are open, offering the best opportunity for the Taliban to give up violence and killing."
The war has claimed thousands of lives in Afghanistan, damaging its infrastructure and economy without any benefit to the Taliban, said Abdullah Afzali, deputy chairman of the Badghis Provincial Council.
"Throughout history, every war has ended through peace. The right opportunity has arrived to end the 40-year conflict in Afghanistan peacefully as well," he added.
"The Taliban and the government must heed to the demands of the public, and they must reach an agreement."
Tired of war
Residents of Badghis Province urged the Taliban to make peace.
Afghans hear about war and killings every day from every corner of the country, which nobody can tolerate, said Abdul Wahid Karimi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw.
"No other country has experienced war and killing as much as Afghanistan has," he added. "Our demand for the Taliban is to no longer continue this war."
All Afghans are tired of the conflict, he said, adding that even the Taliban are exhausted and are trying to extricate themselves.
The Taliban's willingness to negotiate with the government shows that they are tired of war, said Fayeq Ahmadi, a civil society activist in Qala-e-Naw city.
"The start of peace talks between the Taliban and the government in Qatar had raised hopes for peace, but the escalation of violence and attacks by the Taliban in many provinces has left civilians frustrated about the group's intentions for the peace process," he said.
While the peace talks are under way in Qatar, the escalation of violence and of fighting in Afghanistan is a mistake and contravenes human dignity and Islamic values, he added.