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ARLINGTON, Va. — President Barack Obama is reviewing the long-awaited Afghanistan assessment, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, and the two will meet early next week to discuss strategy.

The assessment from the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, did not call for sending more troops to Afghanistan, but that could come soon.

“I would expect that any request for additional resources would follow after this process and be similarly discussed by the president’s national security team,” he said.

The U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is expected to reach 68,000 this year, and McChrystal could ask for up to 45,000 extra troops, according to media reports.

Gates said he was aware of a series of public opinion polls that have shown Americans’ increasingly negative views toward the Afghan effort and toward devoting more U.S. forces.

“The nation has been at war for eight years,” Gates said.

“The fact that Americans would be tired of having of their sons and daughters at risk and in battle is not surprising. I think what is important is for us to be able to show over the months to come that the president’s strategy is succeeding, and that is what Gen. McChrystal is putting in front of us.”

Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Mike Mullen said McChrystal has offered in “frank and candid terms how he believes his forces can best accomplish the mission the president has assigned to him.”

Details of the assessment have not been released.

“There has been enormous focus on troop numbers and time lines lately — lots of conjecture, lots of speculation.” Mullen said. “I understand the interest in those things, and it’s legitimate, but those numbers represent real units, real people and real families.”

The Joint Chiefs have already discussed the assessment twice and they plan to meet at least once more on the matter, he said.

“My intention is to wrap up our review by Friday,” he said. “Our job, and it’s one we take very seriously, is to provide the secretary and the president our best military advice.”


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