U.S. President Barack Obama, right, with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos in February. (Mandel Ngan/Agene France-Presse/Getty Images)

Regarding the Feb. 4 news article “Obama, Santos to mark ‘Plan Colombia’ milestone”:

Colombia, once considered a near-failed state, the result of an out-of-control drug trade and a five-decade civil war, is close to achieving a lasting peace, thanks in a large part to U.S. support. The end to decades of violence and insecurity offers a tremendous opportunity to make an investment in Colombia’s rural areas and build a viable peace dividend for the poorest people who suffered most in the war.

It would be a huge mistake for the United States to prematurely declare victory and walk away. For a successful peace process, the United States must continue to supply resources for demobilization, cease-fire monitoring and other key aspects of implementation while pressing for more effective protection for human rights defenders and the displaced. We can invest in the people and civil society groups, especially in rural areas, who will build the new Colombian countryside.

For this to happen, however, the Colombian state must promote inclusive growth and counter the illegal economic activities and intimidation that forced so many from their land during the conflict. Colombia has long been among the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in the Western Hemisphere, much of it for police and military support. Now is our chance to lead the way in waging peace.

Daniel Speckhard, Baltimore

The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to Belarus and Greece, is president and chief executive of Lutheran World Relief.