White House: Taliban not a terror group

The Taliban carry out “tactics that are akin to terrorism” but are not considered a terrorist organization by the Obama administration because they do not harbor ambitions outside Afghanistan, the White House said Thursday.

Deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he described the Taliban as an “armed insurgency” rather than a terror group. 

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He was making the distinction to explain why the U.S. had opposed Jordan's decision to seek a prisoner swap with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) when the U.S. traded a group of Guantanamo detainees to the Taliban last year to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The U.S. has said it opposes Jordan’s decision because it has a policy against negotiating with terror groups.

Earnest said the Taliban differed from organizations like al Qaeda because those terror groups have “a much broader global aspiration to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”

Still, Earnest said, the White House considers the Taliban “a very dangerous organization.”

“The president has pursued is a clear strategy for building up the central government of Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces, so that they could be responsible for security in their own country and take the fight to the Taliban,” he said.