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Pentagon Chiefs Suggest Afghan War Strategy Evaluation in 2010

Even as the U.S. sends additional troops to fight the insurgency in Afghanistan, a top defense official told Congress Wednesday the Obama administration should evaluate its policy early next year. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a House appropriations subcommittee he doubts it would help to send in more troops later.

With about 17,000 more U.S. fighting forces on the way to battle insurgents in Afghanistan, a key defense official says the Obama administration should take measure of its progress.

As a key House appropriations panel considered next year's U.S. military spending, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned lawmakers the effort is a "multi year undertaking." Still, he said he wants an accounting.

"I think that there needs to be an evaluation of where we are next March or April, in some respect to see if we are making progress," Gates said. "And I think future decisions in terms of troops and things like that should depend on that."

The outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan has requested thousands of additional troops after the current build-up.

But Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen did not endorse such a strategy, the admiral sounding an optimistic note.

"I think we've got to work rapidly this year and next, to stem the violence to start to turn that around. And I think that's doable with the troops the president supported so far," Mullen said.

"At what level of foreign troops do we become, instead of partners and allies, do we become seen as occupiers by the Afghan people. So, personally, I am going to take some convincing in in terms of going, going significantly beyond what the President has requested now," Gates said.

The administration's defense budget request for next year stands at more than $533 billion.

The president has asked for $130 billion for overseas operations that focus principally on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.