All-Star Panel: Reaction to WH calling Taliban an 'armed insurgency'

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 28, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: At the White House today there was a lot of talk about Jordan saying they would negotiate with ISIS, releasing a would-be bomber who captured for a Jordanian pilot. The White House said through a spokesman that the U.S. would not do that. That brought up about questions about the Taliban five who were released for Bowe Bergdahl, and that produced this exchange.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: How is what the Jordanians are talking about doing any different than what the United States did to get the release of Bergdahl, releasing prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay to the Taliban, which is clearly a terrorist organization.

ERIC SCHULTZ, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Prisoner swaps are a traditional end of conflict interaction that happens as the war in Afghanistan wound down. We felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president's bedrock commitment as commander and chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That's the principle he was operating under.

KARL: Isn't that what the Jordanians are operating under? The Taliban is still conducting terrorist attacks. You can't really say that the war has ended as far as they are concerned.

SCHULTZ: Well, I would also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don't make concessions to terrorist groups. We feel --

KARL: Wasn't the Taliban a terrorist group?

SCHULTZ: I don't think that the Taliban -- the Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, and that's why this arrangement was dealt.


BAIER: The Taliban is an armed insurgency, not a terrorist group.  Back with the panel. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It slits throats. It attacks buses. It drives car bombs into markets, and it's not a terrorist group. Look, you can't parody this administration. The idea that the United States would not do this is preposterous. Of course we do. And also the idea that the war is winding down, tell that to anybody who lives in Afghanistan. This is a fantasy.  Obama has pretended that the war on terror, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq are all winding down, and the wars are all back. So, I mean, this is sort of embarrassing.

The issue for the Jordanians is they are a miraculous ally in the region. They have been our friend and stable for 50 years in a region where regimes last a week and a half. But they are extremely pressured by ISIS, by their internal opposition, by the Muslim Brotherhood inside of Jordan, and yet it joined our coalition. If it has to make a swap to recover a pilot, do it.

BAIER: OK. Latest Fox News polls, Ron, Islamic terrorist also try to launch attack on U.S. soil -- 84 percent think that that is likely, 15 percent think it's unlikely. Greatest threat to future generations, global terrorism is at 52 percent. And, yet, we hear this exchange of trying to parse what the Taliban is after all that we have seen about the Taliban.

RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: It just -- it just defies common sense to have a White House just Orwellian making stuff up like that. You don't call the Taliban an armed insurgency. Just don't insult our intelligence like that.

If you want to have a debate on how far the United States should go in the Bergdahl case, how far we should go to get our troops, that's a fair debate to have. Do we go as far as Israel does where we're literally trading one for hundreds, or do we literally have a policy where we are not going to trade, ever negotiate with terrorists? That's the debate worth having.

But don't do stuff like this. Don't have the Bergdahl family out in the Rose Garden. Don't have Susan "Benghazi" Rice out there on the Sunday talk shows talking about how he is a war hero. Because, clearly, those facts don't all line up and it undermines the credibility of the U.S. government, undermines the credibility of the White House. And it gets us away from the real debates that we should be having, for example, how far should we go to get one of our men or women out.

BAIER: Steve.

HAYES: We launched a war in Afghanistan based on the authorization of the use of military force September 18th, 2001, that included the Taliban, groups that were harboring, sponsoring Al Qaeda. When did the Taliban then go from a terrorist group to an armed insurgency? We didn't launch a war against armed insurgency. And when the Department of Justice defends the detention of Taliban leaders in Guantanamo Bay, it does so based on the argument that the Taliban is a terrorist group. So the administration is contradicting not only common sense, it's contradicting the arguments that not only that it has made but the Bush administration has made repeatedly.  And I think it's dangerous to be so determined to ignore the threat and to not call the threat what it is.

FOURNIER: I thought, I was surprised, by the way, I think your poll also shows that most Americans also believe that the president is showing enough concern about terrorism. I was actually surprised to see that.

BAIER: About equal, 47, 43.

That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what you missed during "Special Report" Online last week.

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