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Taliban assurances may be difficult for us to believe

While we Americans were paying tribute to our fallen heroes during Memorial Day weekend, observant Muslims here and abroad were marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Even in Afghanistan, there was a pause in hostilities between government and Taliban forces.

It came as U.S. and Taliban negotiators continued the lengthy process of devising a pact whereby American forces are withdrawn from the country.

During the negotiations, Taliban troops have refrained from attacks on U.S. and NATO forces — but not from assaulting the Afghan government and people.

Taliban leaders are trying hard to convince U.S. negotiators that the hardline repression of the past will not be repeated. Once they are back in power, the Taliban will respect the rights of women and will be more tolerant in general, Americans are being told.

In fact, Taliban officials say, they will be an ally in our battle against terrorist organizations such as ISIS. For those who recall the reason the Taliban were ousted from power — providing a haven for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network — such assurances may be difficult to believe.

But they simply must be the foundation of any agreement between the Taliban and the United States. Assisting terrorists in any way would be a deal-breaker. That is true now, while talks are going on, and the Taliban must be made to understand it will be an ongoing commitment. Any deviance from it after U.S. forces leave Afghanistan would bring immediate, dramatic reaction from our country.

Americans cannot act as the world’s policeman. Persuading those of other cultures to adopt our forms of government is a fool’s errand. We have learned that.

But refraining from activities intended to harm Americans is non-negotiable. Only if that is understood and accepted can a satisfactory agreement between the Taliban and the United States be reached.

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