The Pentagon said Tuesday that the 3rd Infantry Division, a key US Army unit now staying in Iraq,is expected to return home sometime in the fall.
Local media reports quoted unnamed a senior defense official assaying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is committed to bringing the entire division back this autumn, without giving a specific timetable.
On Monday, the US military announced that about 9,000 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, the first to enter Baghdad during the war, would stay in Iraq indefinitely because of the precarioussecurity situation. About 16,500 soldiers from the division were deployed during the war, and about 15,000 now remain in Iraq and Kuwait.
Reports from Baghdad said soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division were frustrated by the announcement since they have been told several times that they would be brought home in July and August.
The US Central Command said in a news release Tuesday that it still intended to bring back 3rd Infantry Division soldiers "by September, pending international or US replacement units. As always, the security situation could affect deployments and redeployments."
The US troops have faced mounting attacks in Iraq and failed tofind evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the main justification the Bush administration used to launch the war. These have contributed to the decision by some countries not to contribute troops to join the United states in policing Iraq and replace its soldiers.
A coalition military spokesman said Tuesday that US forces in Iraq come under an average of 12 attacks each day. A total of 32 US soldiers have been killed in attacks since May 1, when US President George W. Bush declared the end of major hostilities in Iraq.