Rep. Speier: 'Not Necessarily Accurate' to Call Taliban 'Terrorists’

By Patrick Goodenough | June 10, 2014 | 8:23pm EDT

Taliban fighters pose with an RPG in Afghanistan’s Zabul province. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan, File)

( – A Democratic lawmaker  has challenged the use of the term “terrorists” to describe the Taliban:

“So, to say that they are ‘terrorists,’ at this point is not necessarily accurate,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC on Tuesday.

Speier summarized the Taliban's years of brutal, misogynistic rule in Afghanistan with the words, “they were part of the leadership of that country before we engaged there.”

Speier made the comments on MSNBC’s NewsNation after House Speaker John Boehner was shown saying that the administration, with its deal to swap five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, had violated a longstanding U.S. policy “that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

She took issue with the use of the term “terrorists” to describe the Taliban.

“The Taliban is part of the fabric of Afghanistan – they were part of the leadership of that country before we engaged there.”

“We are now actively attempting to get the Taliban to negotiate with Karzai and the Afghanistani government,” Speier continued, “because there will be some cooperation, some level of coordination between the two if that country is going to survive and move forward.”

“So, to say that they are ‘terrorists,’ at this point, is not necessarily accurate.”

The administration has been arguing that Bergdahl, who was seized by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network in 2009, was a prisoner of war, not a hostage held by terrorists.

The State Department has not designated the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) although the group was listed as “specially designated global terrorists” in 2002 under an executive order designed to disrupt funding to terrorists.

The Haqqani network, which predates both the Taliban and al-Qaeda but is closely affiliated to both, is a U.S.-designated FTO.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is a wanted terrorist, with the State Department offering a $10 million reward for information that brings him to justice. (Photo: State Dep’t Rewards for Justice)

The Taliban, a fundamentalist militia, seized control of most of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and established what it called the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” an entity treated as a pariah by most of the world, recognized by just three countries – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Under it grip, shari’a-based punishments including beheadings and stonings were commonplace, women were oppressed and minority Shi’ites mistreated; two of the five men freed in exchange for Bergdahl, former military chief Mohammed Fazl and former governor of northern Balkh province Norullah Noori, are accused of involvement in the massacre of thousands of Shi’ites.

Christian relief agencies were shut down, and foreigners – including Americans – were arrested, accused of seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The Taliban sheltered and colluded with terrorists from many countries, including Osama bin Laden, who at the time was wanted by the U.S. for attacks including the deadly 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Despite the imposition of U.N. sanctions, it refused to hand over bin Laden to the U.S. for trial. After 9/11 the Bush administration demanded that the Taliban surrender him and when it refused, launched the military action that toppled the regime.

Since then, more than 2,300 American military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan, most of them at the hands of the Taliban and its allies. Other members of the NATO-led coalition whose mission ends in six months’ time have lost almost 1,100 soldiers.

The administration’s long stated position is that it supports an Afghan government-led reconciliation process, on condition Taliban leaders pledge to stop fighting, end support for al-Qaeda, and abide by the Afghan constitution.

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