The Haqqani network, one of the most feared insurgent groups in Afghanistan, would take part in peace talks with the Kabul government and the United States only if the Taliban did, its leader Sirajuddin Haqqani told Reuters on Saturday. U.S. officials, including Panetta, suspect militants from the Haqqani network were behind Tuesday's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul.(Reuters) Islamabad fends off U.S. warning on "Pakistan-based" militants.(Reuters)
Sirajuddin said the group had rejected several peace gestures from the United States and President Hamid Karzai's government in the past because they were an attempt to "create divisions" between militant groups. Any further efforts to do so would fail, added Sirajuddin, who is described by U.S. forces in Afghanistan as one of their most lethal enemies. The United States has posted a bounty of up to $5 million for him.Washington has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network it believes is based in the unruly North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.
"They offered us very very important positions but we rejected and told them they would not succeed in their nefarious designs. They wanted to divide us," said Sirajuddin.
"We would support whatever solution our Shura members suggest for the future of Afghanistan," he said, referring to the Afghan Taliban leadership.
The Haqqani group no longer has sanctuaries in Pakistan, and instead felt secure inside Afghanistan, said Sirajuddin in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location.
"Gone are the days when we were hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Now we consider ourselves more secure in Afghanistan besides the Afghan people. Senior military and police officials are with us," he said.
"There are sincere people in the Afghan government who are loyal to the Taliban as they know our goal is the liberation of our homeland from the clutches of occupying forces."
Asked whether there are 10,000 Haqqani fighters as some media reports have suggested, Sirajuddin laughed and said: "That figure is actually less than the actual number."