Sec. Gates: Stop-loss will continue through 2009 at least.

During a press conference today, Secretary of State Robert Gates was asked whether he foresaw an end to the practice of stop-loss — where military personnel can be forced to remain in the military even after completing their enlistment terms — by 2009. “No, I don’t,” Gates replied, though he added that he opposes the policy, which many soldiers call a “backdoor draft,” and will work to end it:

As I’ve indicated before, I’ve pressed on stop-loss ever since I got this job because I don’t like it. But a significant percentage of those who are stop-lossed are NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] and the concern of the Army is that if you don’t use stop-loss you end up gutting a unit of its experienced leadership. But I hope that fairly soon, and especially with the draw-downs in Iraq, that we will begin to see a further decline in stop-loss.

Watch it:

Between May 2007 and March 2008, “the number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army rose 43% to 12,235.”