A State Department spokeswoman claimed that the United States has not taken the position that it will never “negotiate with terrorists,” but rather that the United States will not make “concessions” to terrorists — an important distinction, in her mind, as she argued that the release of five Taliban leaders in exchange for captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was not a concession.
“When people are saying the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorist groups, is that statute or is that general policy?” a reporter asked deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf during Wednesday’s press briefing.
“Well, our line is that we don’t make concession,” Harf replied. “I mean, that’s the – you’re quoting it colloquial. That’s actually not what you’ll hear us say from the podium.”
Reporters have heard Harf’s predecessor say that, though. ”The United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in January of 2013 when Algerian terrorists offered to release American hostages in exchange for two terrorists imprisoned in the United States.
Harf went on to argue that the exchange with the Taliban is justified by past wars with sovereign governments. ”It is consistent absolutely with what’s happened in previous wars, including Korea, including Vietnam,” she said. ”I think one of the large tranches of prisoners in Vietnam, it was something like around 500 Americans for 1,200 North Vietnamese. So again, this has a long history in the United States of prisoner swaps.”