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Rocket attacks on Kabul as Taliban ally says it's open to peace talks

Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Afghan men look at a hole in the wall of a house caused by a rocket attack in Kabul Tuesday.

A rocket landed near the Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul and two others struck near the airport highway and a private television station early Tuesday morning, security officials said.

At least one person was killed and two wounded, Kabul police chief Ayoub Salangi said. Insurgents shot the rockets from positions on the eastern outskirts of the city, he said. 

The rocket attacks were a reminder of Afghanistan's security challenges as most NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of 2014.

The attack came as one of the most lethal insurgent factions in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, said Tuesday it would take part in peace talks with the United States, but only under the direction of Afghan Taliban leaders.

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The rare flexibility was accompanied by a warning that they would continue high-profile attacks and would pursue their goal of establishing an Islamic state.

The Haqqanis, who operate out of the unruly border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, say they are part of the Afghan Taliban and must act in unison in any peace process.

The commander, who declined to be identified, accused the United States of being insincere in peace efforts and trying to divide the two organizations.

"However, if the central shura, headed by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, decided to hold talks with the United States, we would welcome it," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed, referring to the militants' leadership council.

Aref Karimi / AFP - Getty Images

More than ten years after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.

The commander said he and his men were looking ahead to victory.

"We will install a purely a Islamic government, which would be acceptable to all the people," he said.

"We are present everywhere in Afghanistan now and can carry out attacks when and wherever we want. We are very close to our victory."

The Taliban said in March they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States.

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A senior Afghan official closely involved with reconciliation efforts said last week the government had failed to secure direct talks with the Taliban and no significant progress was expected before 2014.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the Haqqanis.

Isolating the group, who were blamed for the 18-hour attack on embassies and parliament in Kabul in April, could complicate efforts to secure peace at a time when Afghans fear another civil war could erupt after Western forces withdraw.

‘Close to our victory’
The Haqqani network may prove to be President Barack Obama's biggest security challenge as he tries to stabilize Afghanistan before most NATO combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

Hard winter ahead for troops in Afghanistan

The group's experience in guerrilla fighting dating back to the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s and its substantial financial network, could make it the ultimate spoiler of peace efforts.

A report in July by the Center for Combating Terrorism said the Haqqanis ran a sophisticated financial network, raising money through kidnapping, extortion and drug trafficking but also have a legitimate business portfolio that includes import-export, transport, real estate and construction interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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