U.S. declines to elaborate on Pompeo labeling Taliban terrorists

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department spokesman on Tuesday declined to elaborate on a comment by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday in which he called the Afghan Taliban terrorists.

“The secretary’s words speak for themselves and I am not going to go beyond that,” spokesman Robert Palladino told a briefing. He said U.S. and Taliban representatives currently are meeting in Doha.

Speaking to a group of students in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Pompeo said: “I have a team on the ground right now trying to negotiate with the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan.”

The United States has not declared the Taliban a terrorist organization.

Palladino said the peace talks in Doha are making progress but more work needed to be done to reach an agreement.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Paul Simao