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The steady state behavior of the external cavity operated laser has been analyzed, taking into account multiple reflections. The effect of optical feedback is included in the phase- and gain-conditions by a factor which is shown to have a simple geometrical representation. From this representation it is easily seen how the laser frequency spectrum and the threshold gain depend on external parameters such as distance to the reflection point and the amount of optical feedback. Furthermore, by inserting a variable attenuator in the external cavity and measuring the threshold current versus transmittance we have simultaneously determined the photon lifetime and the absolute amount of optical feedback. For the laser considered we found the photon lifetime ps.