Secretary of State John Kerry awkwardly dismissed a declaration by released Taliban commander Noorullah Noori that he would return to jihad after 13 years in captivity at Guantanamo Bay, telling CNN’s Elise Labott it was “propaganda” and “a lot of baloney.”
Labott interviewed Kerry on Sunday from a ritzy French chateau, with soft piano music ringing gently in the background. She asked the secretary whether he agreed with National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s contention last week that Army Sgt. and likely deserter Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”
“There’s plenty of time for people to sort through what happened, what didn’t happen,” Kerry said. “I don’t know all the facts.”
“Sounds like you’re not sure he served with honor and distinction,” Labott mused.
“No, no no, that’s what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying, Elise,” Kerry pushed back, calling it “offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what.”
Kerry also claimed that — despite information to the contrary from the Qataris — the released Taliban fighters are being closely watched in Qatar for any signs of reentry into the battlefield.
But the secretary seemed to awkwardly stumble over a question regarding Noori, who has already promised he will return to Afghanistan as soon as possible to fight Americans.
“Well first of all, uh, propaganda is propaganda,” Kerry began, “and they’ll say whatever they want to stir the waters. So people should not be lured in by their propaganda, number one.”
“Number two, we are ending our combat role,” he continued. “Our combat role in Afghanistan is almost over. We’re going to have very few, you know, people in that kind of position, on occasion, where — but I — I honestly just think that’s just a lot of baloney, to be truthful with you.”
“And to whatever degree it may be true, they will wind up putting themselves at the mercy of those people who are very effective — who are there — who will deal with those things,” the Secretary of State concluded.