Unless Americans are committed to a long and expensive process of nation building, it makes no sense to have a huge military footprint in Afghanistan. Since al-Qaida is no longer in Afghanistan but in Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula and sub-Saharan Africa there's no national security rationale for wasting thousands of lives and $120 billion every year in that God-forsaken land.

Our nation needs a smart, cost-effective counter-terrorism strategy that begins with a highly mobile anti-terrorist strike force of less than 20,000 based in Afghanistan. This would prevent infiltration, provide a base for attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, and change the flawed relationship with Pakistan that's based on the coalition's need for land routes to support a huge military force.

Reducing our forces and clarifying our mission in Afghanistan would also produce a $100 billion dividend that could be invested in job creation and nation-building at home.

Roger C. Kostmayer, Baltimore