The White House was called out Thursday for referring to the Taliban as “businesslike and professional” in a statement about the Qatar charter flight that ferried American citizens and Afghan allies from the Kabul airport.
In the statement, the White House announced that the plane had arrived in Qatar from Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul and thanked the extremist group for its cooperation in allowing the flight to depart.
“They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step,” the statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said about the Taliban.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked at the White House briefing why the Taliban was called “businesslike and professional” and tried to dodge on the phrasing.
“I would note that in that statement what we were announcing was the fact that a Qatari Airlines Flight successfully landed in Qatar with American citizens, legal permanent residents, and Afghans on board who joined us in our fight, over the last several years,” Psaki said in response.
“We wanted to note that the Taliban was cooperative in facilitating the departure of these American citizens and legal permanent residents from HKIA. We promised we would get American citizens out, we promised we would get legal permanent residents out, we promised we would press the Taliban to get them out, and that’s exactly what we did,” she continued.
But Fox News’ Peter Doocy pressed and questioned how the White House could call the Taliban “professional” when the jihadist group’s acting interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is on the FBI’s most wanted list, echoing an exchange between him and Psaki about the Taliban at Wednesday’s briefing.
“The Taliban is businesslike and professional?: he wondered. “Their interior minister has been on an FBI wanted poster, he’s got a $10 million bounty on his head. What’s the business?”
Paski again evaded the line of questioning.
“We are here to celebrate the return of American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan, of legal permanent residents, of Afghans who fought by our side to Qatar … and in order to get those people out, we had to work with some members of the Taliban, to press them and to work in a business-like manner, to get them out, that is what we were standing in the statement,” she said.
Doocy asked what the “positive first step” meant.
“Towards getting additional people out who want to leave Afghanistan,” Paski responded.
The chartered flight took about 200 Americans and other Westerners out of Kabul, and marks the first large departure of US citizens out of the country since American troops pulled out of the Taliban-controlled country at the end of August.