WASHINGTON, D.C. — Acknowledging there are no easy answers to resolving the challenges facing Afghanistan, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has offered three officials in President Donald Trump’s administration a set of principles to help guide U.S. actions in the troubled country.
The bishop, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, called on the U.S. to support inclusive governance in Afghanistan to promote a more secure and stable nation.
Overall, eight principles were outlined in Cantu’s Oct. 26 letter to James N. Mattis, secretary of defense; Rex Tillerson, secretary of state; and H.R. McMaster, national security adviser.
The letter urged the U.S. to encourage international collaboration in the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance and to ensure that much of the assistance be channeled through civilian and faith-based organizations, including Catholic Relief Services.
Cantu also called for the U.S. to foster discourse among the country’s different political, religious and ethnic factions in the hope of finding areas of “basic cooperation that might lead to confidence-building measures, a gradual diminishing of armed conflict, increased accountability, and enhanced and equitable economic development.”
He suggested that the U.S. restrain the use of military force to ensure that civilians are not targeted and undertake periodic reviews of the use of such force to ensure that it is proportionate. He appealed for the development of criteria for when to end the U.S. military presence in the country.
Other principles in the letter included a call to address the root causes of terrorism and extremism, including poverty, injustice and unequal access to education, employment and opportunity, “rather than rely solely on military means to solve conflict; promoting the protection of human rights and religious freedom; and working toward lasting solutions regarding Afghan and other refugees and internally displaced people.”
Cantu acknowledged the dedication and duty of the military troops of both countries during Afghanistan’s 16-year conflict.
“We also are saddened by the large numbers of Afghan civilians, including many women and children, who have lost their lives, homes and livelihoods amid the violence,” the letter added. “Any action taken by the United States must simultaneously honor these meaningful sacrifices while striving to end this long-standing conflict and counter extremists who threaten the security of peoples and nations.”
The letter comes two months after Trump announced that he had decided to maintain a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to prevent extremist groups from rising in power. The steps he announced closely adhere to those of his predecessors.