Bishops write to National Security Advisor about ‘critical juncture’ in Afghanistan

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard


Noting the “critical juncture” of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bishop of Albany Howard J. Hubbard has written to the United States government’s National Security Advisor about the necessity of just restraint in warfare, the need to address the “root causes” of terrorism, and Catholic Relief Services’ experience in the region.

Bishop Hubbard’s October 6 letter to the National Security Council’s General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret.) was written on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“While we are pastors and teachers and not military experts, we can share Catholic teaching and experience which may help inform various policy choices,” Bishop Hubbard wrote, noting that the Obama administration is reviewing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

The bishop’s letter referenced their pastoral message “Living with Faith and Hope after September 11.” He repeated its principles concerning restrained use of military force and the protection of civilians, focused attention to the “root causes” of terrorism instead of giving a solely military response, and encouragement of international collaboration to provide humanitarian assistance and to rebuild Afghanistan.

“We observe that some military leaders now share the view that the success of U.S. operations in Afghanistan cannot come from military measures alone,” the letter continued.

The bishop urged the administration to review the use of military force and to ensure that its use is proportionate and discriminate. He also asked that criteria be developed to determine when it is appropriate to end military action in Afghanistan.

The letter advised more focus on diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and long-term development such as agricultural programs. It further counseled the strengthening of local governance and the increase of local groups’ participation in development.

While acknowledging the importance of security, Bishop Hubbard’s letter said that “too much development assistance” appears to be directed to short-term security objectives or channeled through the military. The bishop claimed that these funds are less effective in building stable communities and meeting the needs of Afghans.

Bishop Hubbard also noted that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been working in Afghanistan since 1998 on projects in agriculture, water, income generation and health.

He praised CRS’ ability to develop local partnerships and said the agency’s approach exemplifies how long-term efforts can both create sustainable development and contribute to improved security.

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