White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday that when it comes to negotiating for American hostages, the Obama administration does not consider the Taliban a terrorist organization.
"The Taliban is an armed insurgency," Schultz said in response to a question from ABC's Jonathan Karl asking him to distinguish between Jordanian efforts to pay a ransom for hostages and President Obama's deal with the Taliban for United States Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl. "ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don't make concessions to terrorist groups."
"You don't consider the Taliban a terrorist group?" Karl then pressed.
"I don't think that the Taliban um... uh... The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was a winding down of the war in Afghanistan and that's why this arrangement was dealt. Our view is, the president said at the time, which is as commander in chief when he sends men and women into armed combat he doesn't want to leave anyone behind. That was the commitment he was following through on this."
In June of 2014, Obama violated federal law by giving the Taliban five of their commanders held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in exchange for Bergdahl who the Army is about to charge with desertion. Conservatives believe Obama's decision to release the Taliban commanders had nothing to do with leaving soldiers behind and everything to do with Obama's efforts to empty Guantanamo Bay without congressional authorization.
While the State Department does not include Afghanistan's Taliban on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization list, Pakistan's Taliban is on that list. Additionally, a 2002 executive order did designate the Afghanistan Taliban as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a designation that the Obama administration has not changed to this day and can be used to trigger asset freezes by the United States.