White House embarrasses itself with claim Taliban is not a terrorist group

While the White House is keen to pretend as though the War on Terror is over, the Cold War is ancient history, and the War on Poverty has been a glittering success, there is one war that the administration continues to prosecute vigorously: A war on the English language.


During the White House daily press briefing on Wednesday, Deputy Press Sec. Eric Schultz was asked why, if the administration opposes its allies negotiating with ISIS for the mutual release of captives, that it routinely enters into negotiations with the Taliban. The dissembling response that followed is stranger than fiction (hat tip to Washington Free Beacon for pulling the clip):

Schultz protested that the controversial prisoner swap in May of 2014, when Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was retrieved from Taliban custody in exchange for five ranking Taliban commanders held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, was a traditional element of all concluding wars. ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl observed, however, that the Taliban is still conducting “terrorist attacks” both during and after hostage swap negotiations.

“I would also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group,” Schultz said. “So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

Karl’s stood at attention after hearing this response and asked Schultz to repeat himself, which the deputy press secretary did but only after a prolonged and contemplative “um.”

Yes, he messed up. And he knew he messed up.

According to ABC News, the last two administrations have been treating the Taliban as a terrorist organization (even though this White House declines to use that word) since at least 2002.


… White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden noted that the Taliban was added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) by executive order in July 2002, even if it is not listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the State Department. Either designation triggers asset freezes, according to the State Department, though they can differ on other restrictions imposed on the target organization. The Treasury Department told ABC News the Taliban is still on their SDGT list.

The U.S. is offering $10 million for information leading to the capture of the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Omar, through the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, an effort designed to “fight against international terrorism.” The National Counterterrorism Center also lists “Taliban Presence in Afghanistan” on its global map of “Terrorist Groups.”

We need not re-litigate the myriad horrors perpetrated by Taliban fighters in order to justify the group’s designation as a terrorist organization. We only need to note the most recent one: December’s atrocity in which Taliban fighters stormed an elementary school in Peshawar, Pakistan where they killed 141, including 132 children, and wounded 121 more.

The acts of this “armed insurgency” are too grotesque to reproduce in detail, but the account of one of the survivors sheds light on the horror he witnessed:


“Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’,” Salman told AFP.

“I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.”

Salman said he felt searing pain as he was shot in both his legs just below the knee. He decided to play dead, adding: “I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream. The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again,” he said.

Rather than call this evil what it is, the White House would prefer to preserve its political position by indulging in lawyerly evasion. That’s so craven that it defies reason, but it’s what the country has come to expect from this administration.

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