Even with Josh Earnest coming in to clean up his subordinate’s mess on Thursday, the White House still struggled to explain why it doesn’t consider the Taliban a terrorist group.
On Wednesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters that the White House considers the Taliban an “armed insurgency” and not a “terrorist group” as he justified the administration’s decisions leading up to the Bowe Bergdahl swap last year. On Thursday, Earnest tried to clarify Schultz’s comments, but with little success.
Despite repeatedly acknowledging that the Taliban does “carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism,” Earnest explained that the Obama administration does not designate the Taliban as a terrorist group as it does al-Qaeda. Although he said both groups are “dangerous, the Taliban’s objectives are focused specifically on Afghanistan, and the administration’s strategy against it is to strengthen the country’s government. On the other hand, al-Qaeda’s aspirations are much more global and requires a much different response.”
Although the Treasury Department includes the Taliban on a list of terrorist groups, as noted by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, Earnest said it was designated that way so the administration could pursue financial sanctions against the group.