The US military's top uniformed officer told an audience of Army troops Wednesday the unpopular "stop loss" policy won't end anytime soon, and he predicted a small rise in the number of troops forced to serve past their re-enlistment or retirement dates. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience of 600 soldiers at Fort Stewart he understands the strain the stop loss practice and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have placed on service members. "I would like to see an end to the stop loss policy, but I don't see it happening in the near future," Mullen said during a question-and-answer session with the troops. "I see a slight growth in the next couple of years based on predictions right now." Mullen said about 11,000 Army troops are now serving under the stop loss policy, which critics have referred to as a "backdoor draft." Retaining troops beyond the date they're due to leave the military has been necessary to keep units stocked with trained soldiers ready to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.