When he ran for president in 2008, then-Senator Obama castigated the Bush administration for taking his eye “off the ball.” “The ball” was the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Looking back on the campaign, Obama noted: “I talked frequently during this campaign that we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq. And now it’s done. My job is to withdraw in a responsible way from Iraq and stabilize the situation there. But our real focus has to be on Afghanistan, the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And we have to put as much pressure on them as possible.”
Having lost its use as a cudgel with which to beat Bush and Republicans, Obama himself has taken his eye off the ball. He seems to think we are at peace with the Taliban. He no longer even recognizes the Taliban as a terrorist organization.
Obama’s spokesmen are bending themselves into pretzels to keep up appearances. White House spokesman Eric Schultz made himself a laughingstock on Wednesday as he stood up for the Taliban as “an armed insurrection” rather than a terrorist group earlier this week. (He was explaining why our trade of five Taliban terrorists detained in Gitmo for Bowe Bergdahl was A-okay.)
White House spokesman Josh Earnest did it again on Thursday at greater length. See if you can follow this, per RCP:
At today’s briefing Josh Earnest seemed to double down on the rhetoric by tip-toeing around the term ‘terrorist group.” Earnest used phrases like “this description that you have put forward” and “designating them in a way that you have described.”
Earnest did finally say the Taliban “has resorted to terror tactics,” but qualified that they have “principally been focused on Afghanistan.”
“It is important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” Earnest told Karl. “The Taliban has resorted to terror tactics, but those terror tactics have principally been focused on Afghanistan.”
Earnest also called the Taliban a “dangerous organization.”
Earnest also drew a distinction between how the U.S. handles the Taliban and how the U.S. views al Qaeda.
“What the president has pursued is a clear strategy for building up a central government in Afghanistan and the Afghan Security Forces so that they can be responsible for security in their own country and take the fight to the Taliban,” Earnest said. “That, however, is different than the strategy that we have pursued against al Qaeda — al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that has aspirations that extend beyond just the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“There are no doubts that both these organizations are dangerous and have drawn our attention,” Earnest added.
“So if I am hearing you correctly you are saying the Taliban engages in ‘tactics akin to terrorism,’ but you don’t actually consider them a terrorist group,” Karl attempted to confirm.
They have a different classification,” Earnest said. “They have a classification that does allow us to pursue financial sanctions against them that have succeeded in limiting their capability that have been effective.”
Earnest again differentiated the two, saying the Taliban “is different than an organization like al Qaeda that has much broader global aspirations to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”
Roll Call’s video of the exchange (below) runs for three minutes.
This is a useful companion to Earnest’s explanation for the administration’s disavowal of the term “radical Islam” to describe the ideology of our terrorist enemies.
Forgive me for repeating myself as I reiterate that the Obama administration has degenerated rapidly into a clown show. It may be a clown show that falls into the killer clown horror genre, but still it’s some kind of a clown show.