Obama officials — including National Security Adviser James Jones and Defense Secretary Robert Gates — know the problem is much bigger than Feingold and timetables. They anticipate a growing number of anti-war liberals will call, with increasing force, for an end to the conflict when lawmakers return. Cost could become an issue, too. With deficits high, there will be heavy pressure on Obama to find savings somewhere in 2010 — and war critics see Afghanistan as a good place to start…

To try to salve critics, the administration has been developing a series of numerical indicators, scheduled to be sent to Capitol Hill by Sept. 24, that are designed to sharpen U.S. goals by measuring everything from civilian deployments to the proportion of the Afghan population that is secured.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told POLITICO: “We have to show the American people that all this effort, all these resources, all these lives are making a difference.”