Asia Crisis

Pentagon sees limit on US troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday he would be very skeptical about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan beyond those already requested by the top commander there.

U.S. Army General David McKiernan, the commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, has asked for a range of units that could amount to 30,000 more U.S. troops. One of the brigades he requested has already started to deploy.

"I would be very skeptical of any additional American force levels beyond what General McKiernan has already asked for," Gates told a hearing of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee.

There are 36,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, split between the 55,000-strong NATO force and separate U.S. missions.

"The Afghan people must believe this is their war and we are there to help them because if they think we are there for our own purposes then we will go the way of every other foreign army that has been in Afghanistan," Gates said. (Reporting by Andrew Gray and David Morgan)