As White House press secretary Jay Carney fielded questions about the prisoner swap that led to the release of a U.S. Army sergeant from captivity by the Taliban, he didn’t give a yes-or-no answer on a key question.
Asked directly whether the U.S. still regards the Taliban “as a terrorist group,” Carney replied: “We regard the Taliban as an enemy combatant in a conflict that has been going on, in which the U.S. has been involved in for more than a decade.”
The United States negotiated with the Taliban through the government of Qatar to release five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal finalized over the weekend.
“In this case, as you know, we dealt with the Qataris to secure his release, it is absolutely the right thing to do because he was a uniformed member of the U.S. military who was in captivity as a prisoner not as a hostage,” Carney said. “So we sought his recovery and succeeded in recovering him.”
Carney called the procedures followed “absolutely consistent with decades, and I’d venture centuries, of past practice when it comes to prisoners of war.”
He insisted that the five terror detainees released “will not pose a signifiant threat to the United States.”
“The secretary of defense, in consultation and coordination with the full national security team made the conclusion that the mitigation efforts were sufficient when it came to the assurances we received from the Qataris and the communications we had with them and that these five detainees do not and will not pose a significant threat to the United States,” Carney said. “It was in the national security interest of the United States to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s release.”
But asked to offer assurances that the five “won’t be back with the Taliban,” Carney replied: “I don’t predict the future. Consistent with past practice, we have received assurances and are confident there is sufficient mitigation.”