The White House on Wednesday described the Taliban as an “armed insurgency” and the Islamic State (IS) a “terrorist group”, drawing fire from critics who don’t see the two differently.
The controversial distinction was made by White House deputy press secretary Eric Shultz when asked about Jordan’s proposed prisoner swap with the IS.
“We don’t give concessions to terrorist organizations,” Shultz said. Asked how Amman’s plan to free a female Iraqi jihadist in exchange for a Jordanian pilot was any different from Washington trading five Taliban insurgents for army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, Shultz said, “Taliban is an armed insurgency… and that’s why this arrangement (the Bergdahl swap) was dealt.”
When asked for a second time whether the Taliban is a terrorist group, he replied, “The Taliban is an armed insurgency.”
The US has not designated the Taliban a foreign terrorist group but the outfit figures on a separate list of specially designated global terrorists since 2002.
Critics were quick to take aim. “It’s all semantics,” House Armed Services Committee member Duncan Hunter, a Republican, told Fox News. “The White House screwed up on the Bergdahl trade, plain and simple, and now they want to justify their actions by splitting hairs on how they compare the Taliban to ISIS,” he added, using another name for the IS.