WASHINGTON - A White House spokesman has said that the US does not consider Afghan Taliban a terrorist group, terming it ‘an armed insurgency’, while reiterating the American position that rules out giving any concessions to terrorists.

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz, who was responding to questions at the regular briefing, called the Islamic State as a ‘terrorist’ group, as he sought to underline the difference between the two outfits. A reporter asked Schultz whether Jordan’s reported plan to exchange a convicted terrorist with a Jordanian pilot held captive by the IS was similar to the United States trading five Taliban members for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last year.

“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time and prisoner swaps are a traditional end-of-conflict interaction that happens,” Schultz said. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president’s bedrock commitment as commander in chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That’s the principle he was operating under.”

“Isn’t that what the Jordanians are operating under?” the reporter argued. “The Taliban are still conducting terror attacks, so you can’t really say the war has ended as far as they’re concerned,” the reporter went on to say.

Schultz explained: “I would also point out that the Taliban insurgency is an armed insurgency. [Islamic State] is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

“You don’t think the Taliban a terrorist group?” the reporter interjected.

“Prisoner swaps are a traditional, end-of-conflict interaction that happens,” the deputy press secretary said.  

“Our view is, as 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,” Schultz added.

Though the State Department has not designated the Afghan Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, it has designated its allies - the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Haqqani Network.

The US is offering up to USD 10 million for information leading to the capture of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. ISIL or IS is an al-Qaeda splinter group and it has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic Caliphate.


Reuters from Kabul adds: A suicide bomb attack on a funeral in east Afghanistan killed 16 people and injured another 39 on Thursday, a local official said, an unusually high death toll for a single bombing in a country ravaged by decades of war.

Separately, Taliban militants attacked a checkpoint operated by a group of armed villagers late on Wednesday evening, killing 11 people, according to another official. Seven militants were also killed during the attack, he added.

The violence underscores growing instability in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is seeking to take advantage of the withdrawal of most foreign troops and persistent political uncertainty following a turbulent election last year.

A small contingent of coalition forces, including about 10,600 U.S. troops, remain on the ground, but most are involved in training Afghanistan’s national security force.

The incident at the funeral took place on Thursday afternoon in the provincial capital of eastern Laghman province, killing 12 civilians and four policeman, a spokesman for the governor said.

“A suicide bomber detonated explosives attached to his body,” Sarhadi Zwak said in a statement, adding that Afghan security forces had arrested a second suspected bomber.

Officials blamed the Taliban for the bombing. The militant group could not be reached for comment.

The attack on the checkpoint started late on Wednesday evening and continued for several hours, a local official said. It had probably been planned with the help of a Taliban fighter who had infiltrated the local community.

“The attack took place one month after a Taliban insurgent joined the villagers’ militia,” Deputy Governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters, listing 11 militia fighters and seven Taliban among the dead.

“That Taliban fighter paved the way for others to attack.”

The villagers had formed their own militia because there was no permanent security force in their area, Ahmadi added.