I suppose that if Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right and we can define deviancy down, there is really no good reason why terrorism can’t be defined down, too. Via ABC’s Jon Karl:
They act like terrorists, they regularly kill civilians like terrorists, but the White House does not consider the Afghan Taliban to be a terrorist group.
“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained today, but “they have a different classification.”
Semantics aside, the Taliban is suspected in multiple attacks over just the last 48 hours that have killed more than 30 people, including a suicide bombing attack on a funeral in Afghanistan today that killed 16 and wounded 39.
Based on what we’ve seen after Ferguson, I suppose this means the White House now considers them to be community organizers.
As Karl points out, in making this shift in policy it didn’t even bother to attempt to look consistent:
On one hand, the Afghan Taliban are not on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (the Pakistan Taliban is on that last). On the other hand, the Taliban is on the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a classification that allows their assets to be frozen.
This change of designation seems to be linked to two events. First, the impending (or not) charging of Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter.
The issue has come up because the White House insisted on Wednesday that a prisoner exchange between Jordan and ISIS would be different than the prisoner exchange the United States made last year with the Taliban to gain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom. We don’t give concessions to terrorist organizations,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it’s also one that we’ve communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”
Schultz explained that the exchange the United States made with the Taliban — releasing five Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl — was consistent with that policy because the Taliban is an “armed insurgency” and not a terrorist organization.
If Bergdahl is charged, and it will take Olympic gold medal quality gymnastics to avoid doing so, and the Taliban are terrorists (which they are) then the administration will be seen as doing exactly what it is criticizing other nations for now, paying ransom to have their citizens returned. This will be doubly true as at least one of the terrorists released to facilitate Berghdahl’s return is now back in the field doing what he does best: being a terrorist.
Second, with the official end of US combat operations in Afghanistan, the Obama administration obviously intends to negotiate with the Taliban, presumably to the disadvantage of the elected government of that nation. This will unseemly under the best of circumstances and unconscionable if the Taliban are still listed as a terrorist organization.