State Dept. Unsure if Taliban Still Considered Terrorists

State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was "not sure" whether the Taliban is designated as a terrorist organization when a reporter pressed her on negotiations between the United States and the Islamist group during Tuesday's press briefing. 

These talks come on the heels of the Taliban opening offices in Qatar, allegedly to aid the Afghan government's progress toward stability without a U.S. presence. 

The international coalition recently gave primary responsibility for Afghanistan's security to the country's army and police. Now the Taliban have opened offices in Qatar to facilitate talks for a political solution.

From the Associated Press:

In a major breakthrough, the Taliban and the U.S. announced Tuesday that they will hold formal talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan but President Barack Obama warned the process won't be quick or easy.

The comments came on a day in which Afghan forces took the lead from the U.S.-led NATO coalition for security nationwide, marking a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. It also opened the way for the full withdrawal of most foreign troops in 18 months

After months of delays, the Taliban opened a political office in the Qatari capital of Doha, paving the way for talks to begin. The decision was a reversal of months of failed efforts to start peace talks while Taliban militants intensified a campaign targeting urban centers and government installations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has halted these talks with the United States "to protest the way the Americans are reaching out to the Taliban in efforts to find a political solution to the war." Karzai expressed his disappointment with the U.S. government for holding direct talks with the Taliban before bringing Afghan officials into the negotiations.

When reminded that the Taliban was once labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., Psaki said that she was "not sure how they’re defined at this particular moment." 

QUESTION: I’m going to carry on with what Matt’s question is about – negotiating, the legality of it. I mean, in the eyes of the U.S., is Taliban a terrorist group?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure how they’re defined at this particular moment.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: But the important thing here is that we’ve long said that moving toward a reconciliation process, of which they are a key part – the President has said this, the Secretary has said this – is an important part of moving towards a more stable Afghanistan. That’s why we support these efforts. That’s why we’ve been so engaged, why the Secretary has been so engaged, at every level of the government.

Psaki made this statement within hours of a Taliban attack that killed four American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

From the Associated Press:

The Taliban claimed responsibility Wednesday for an attack in Afghanistan that killed four American troops just hours after the insurgent group announced it would hold talks with the U.S. on finding a political solution to ending the nearly 12-year war in the country.

The deadly attack underscores the challenges ahead in trying to end the violence roiling Afghanistan through peace negotiations in Qatar with militants still fighting on the ground.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the insurgents fired two rockets into the Bagram Air Base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, late on Tuesday. American officials confirmed the base had come under attack by indirect fire -- likely a mortar or rocket -- and that four U.S. troops were killed.


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