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But he also insisted that the military has only recently been given the resources it needs — 30,000 American reinforcements who are still arriving as well as more trained Afghan soldiers.

U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan stands at nearly 100,000 — three times as many as at the beginning of 2009.

In ordering more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in December, Mr. Obama pledged to begin withdrawing forces starting in July 2011, a sign to a war-weary U.S. public as well as a weak Afghan government that the American commitment to the war was limited. Mr. Obama also has said the pace of the withdrawal would depend on security conditions.

During the “Meet the Press” interview, host David Gregory asked whether the general might recommend that the drawdown be delayed if conditions were not right.

“Certainly, yes,” Gen. Petraeus replied, saying Mr. Obama had “expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice.”

A recommendation from one of the best-known U.S. generals, with prestige in Congress, would be difficult for the president to reject — even at the risk of trouble within his own Democratic Party. Gen. Petraeus is the third commander to lead the U.S. and NATO mission since Mr. Obama took office.

Yet measuring progress in Afghanistan is difficult. The coalition has achieved some success against the Taliban in the Nawa district of Helmand province but is struggling to gain full control in Marjah, a town captured in February that was supposed to become a model for the strategy of winning public support through effective local government.

Violence is increasing in parts of the north, including the provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan, far removed from longtime Taliban strongholds. Afghan commanders say insurgent infiltration from Pakistan is on the rise in eastern Afghanistan while NATO’s attention is riveted on the south.

Still, Gen. Petraeus must find a way by the end of the year to convince Congress and the American public that the U.S. and its allies are gaining ground, or all the interviews and rosy predictions will come to naught.