ISIS is a terrorist group. The Taliban though? Nope. Not at all.
That’s apparently what the White House believes, with deputy press secretary Eric Schultz making that known during Wednesday’s White House briefing.
When pushed by ABC News’ Jon Karl as to how the the U.S.’s swap with the Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl is different from the Jordanian’s swap with ISIS for the release of Japanese prisoner Kenji Goto, Schultz explained that while ISIS is indeed a terrorist group, the Taliban is an “armed insurgency.”
“You say the United States government does not give into demands, do not pay hostage, does not pay ransom,” Karl said. “But how is what the Jordanians are talking about doing any different than what the United States did to get the release of Bergdahl, the releasing of prisoners held at Gitmo to the Taliban, which is clearly a terrorist organization.”
“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time, and prisoner swaps are traditional, end of conflict interaction that happens,” Schultz told Karl. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do.
“The president’s bedrock commitment as commander-in-chief is to leave no man or woman behind,” Schultz added. “That’s the principle he was operating under.”
“Isn’t that what the Jordanians are operating under?” Karl asked. “The Taliban is still conducting terrorist attacks, so you can’t say that the war has ended, as far as they’re concerned.”
“Well I’d also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency,” Schultz explained. “ISIL is a terrorist group, so we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”
“You don’t think the Taliban is a terrorist group?” Karl shot back.
“I don’t think that the Taliban,” Schultz continued, tripping over his words, “the Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, and that’s why this arrangement was dealt.”
Currently, the State Department does not classify the Taliban in Afghanistan as a terrorist group, though they do classify the Pakistani Taliban as such. Previously, former press secretary Jay Carney echoed Schultz’s remarks, calling the Taliban an “enemy combatant” in June, 2014.
“We regard the Taliban as an enemy combatant in a conflict that has been going on, in which the U.S. has been involved in for more than a decade,” Carney said at the time.