ISLAMABAD - The Taliban's deputy chief, in a rare newspaper opinion piece published Thursday, has said that despite mutual mistrust, the insurgent group is "fully committed" to upholding a peace deal it is about to sign with the United States to end the war in Afghanistan."
The long war has exacted a terrible cost from everyone.... Everyone is tired of war," Sirajuddin Haqqani, the militant commander who allegedly directs suicide bombings and other insurgent attacks out of neighboring Pakistan, wrote in The New York Times.
Haqqani stressed that achieving the potential of the U.S.-Taliban agreement and ensuring its success would depend on "an equally scrupulous observance" by Washington of each of its commitments.
"Only then can we have complete trust and lay the foundation for cooperation - or even a partnership - in the future," said Haqqani, who allegedly maintains close ties with the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistan denies having any links to Haqqani or his dreaded militant network, known as the Haqqani Network (HN).
The newspaper article comes after U.S. and Taliban officials recently agreed to a seven-day period of reduced violence in Afghanistan. If the temporary truce is successful, the two adversaries could sign the long-awaited peace agreement later this month.
Speaking on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said that he saw "a chance" of a peace deal with the Taliban, which would lead to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and end America's longest war.
"We are negotiating with the Taliban. We've been negotiating with them for a while. We will see what happens. There's a chance of making a deal. There's a chance," Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Both sides have negotiated a draft agreement in contentious 18-month talks.
The deal provides a timetable for the withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Afghanistan, insurgent counterterrorism security guarantees, and a process for political reconciliation between Afghan parties to the conflict.
"My fellow Afghans will soon celebrate this historic agreement. Once it is entirely fulfilled, Afghans will see the departure of all foreign troops," Haqqani wrote.
Washington has placed a reward of up to $10 million for bringing Haqqani to justice for plotting deadly cross-border attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials also accused the Haqqani Network of being behind high-profile kidnappings of foreigners, including Americans, in the war-shattered country.
Tuesday's outcome of the controversy-marred Afghan presidential election, announced nearly five months after it was held, has posed a new challenge for the U.S.-led Afghan peace process.
The Afghan election commission has declared incumbent Ashraf Ghani the first-round winner. But runner-up Abdullah Abdullah swiftly rejected the result as "illegal," declaring himself the winner and threatening to form his own government in Kabul.
The Taliban, which denounces Ghani as an American puppet and refuses to engage in any intra-Afghan talks under his leadership, also criticized the result. It was an outcome of what the insurgent group called "fake and staged" elections, saying Ghani's "unlawful" election is also "in conflict with the contents of the ongoing peace process" with America.
The emerging political crisis has raised questions and doubts about whether Afghans will be able to form a united team to engage in the much-sought peace negotiations with the Taliban to discuss a permanent nationwide cease-fire and power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.