An Obama White House spokesman said Wednesday that the United States may negotiate prisoner swaps with the Taliban because, unlike the Islamic State (ISIS), it is not considered a terrorist organization.
ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl asked deputy press secretary Eric Schultz, a press briefing rookie, whether the Jordanian government's announcement that it would make a deal with ISIS to win freedom for a captured pilot was analogous to the United States trading five Taliban members for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
"As you know, this was highly discussed at the time and prisoner swaps are a traditional end-of-conflict interaction that happens," Schultz said. "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."
The Free Beacon posted video of the comments on youtube:
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Karl noted that like ISIS, the Taliban continue to carry out terrorist attacks, so "you can't really say the war has ended as far as they're concerned."
Schultz, however, suggested that Karl had overlooked an important distinction.
"I would also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency," he stated, the Free Beacon reports, while ISIS "is a terrorist group. So, we don't make concessions to terrorist groups."
"You don't think the Taliban's a terrorist group?" Karl persisted.
"I don't think that the Taliban – the Taliban is an armed insurgency," Schultz replied, sounding somewhat flustered.
"This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, and that's why this arrangement was dealt," he added.
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a Marine Corps veteran who saw combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the White House claim was ridiculous.
"It's all semantics," the California Republican told Fox News.
"The White House screwed up on the Bergdahl trade, plain and simple, and now they want justify their actions by splitting hairs on how they compare the Taliban to ISIS."
Noting that the Taliban has been responsible for killing thousands of civilians, Hunter said the White House refusal to call it a terrorist group is "more nonsense from an administration that seems to have lost its sense of reality."
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