On Wednesday, the Deputy White House Press Secretary declared that the Taliban is not a terrorist group, but an "armed insurgency" organization and clarified that ISIS qualifies as a terrorist group, creating a wave of backlash from conservative quarters.
The eyebrow raising comments came during the daily briefing on Wednesday, when ABC News reporter John Karl questioned Deputy White House Press Secretary, Eric Schultz. The journalist was asking whether or not the Jordanian government plans to swap a suicide bomber for a Jordanian pilot, held captive by ISIS terrorists, was setting a precedent and was similar to the U.S. swapping alleged deserter Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban terrorists last year.
The White House spokesman struggled to explain why both situations are different and to justify the U.S. dealings with the Taliban.
"As you know, this was highly discussed at the time and prisoner swaps are a traditional end-of-conflict interaction that happens. 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. That's the principle he was operating under."
This is when the White House deputy appeared to be at a loss for words in trying to explain the difference between the Taliban, which the U.S. designated as a terrorist group after the 9/11 attacks and ISIS, who are threatening to kill the Jordanian pilot if the female suicide bomber is not released.
"I would also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency. (ISIS) is a terrorist group. So we don't make concessions to terrorist groups."To what a shocked Karl continue to ask, "You don't think the Taliban's a terrorist group?"
White House Deputy responded "I don't think that the Taliban — the Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, and that's why this arrangement was dealt."
The Taliban started in Afghanistan in 1994 as a militia group and spread throughout the country for the next two years, after which it gained control of the government in 1996. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the U.S., the Taliban was designated a terrorist organization since it aided and allowed terrorists groups such as Al Qaeda, which are responsible for planning and executing countless attacks around the world, to operate in Afghanistan.
Additionally, the Taliban took responsibility for the brutal school attack that killed 145 innocent civilians in Peshawar, Pakistan on December 16, 2014. The attack, which killed 132 school children was condemned in the strongest terms by the U.S. and many others, even ISIS.
The Pakistan Taliban launched the attack as a revenge for a military's offensive in North Waziristan, which started in the summer of 2014. According to expert on Islamic militants, Ahmed Rashid, the massacre was also believed to have been retaliation for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Malala Yousafzai, an activist that survived being shot by Taliban terrorists on October 9, 2012 and was receiving her award that day.
Do you think the White House is correct saying the Taliban is not a terrorist organization?
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