Over 70% of American troops in Iraq questioned by a Pentagon-funded newspaper say their morale is low or average, a new survey has found.
Attacks on US troops come almost daily
The survey by the Stars and Stripes newspaper also said that 49% of those polled did not plan to re-enlist, while 31% said the war in Iraq was of little or no value for the United States.
About a third of the respondents said that their mission was "not clearly" or "not at all" defined, according to the poll.
Experts say that the survey's findings conflict with statements by top US military commanders and politicians who claim that the deployed troops are generally in high-spirited mood and well-prepared.
However, some experts single out what they describe as good news in the survey.
They say that 67% of those questioned said the war in Iraq was worthwhile, while 64% said their mission was clearly defined.
The experts also point out that enlistment rates traditionally drop after major combat operations.
The Stars and Stripes survey - published in its Wednesday edition - is the first in a week-long series of articles on US troops morale in Iraq.
The newspaper said it decided to conduct the poll after receiving scores of letters from US soldiers who were upset by some aspects of their deployment in Iraq.
34% of troops say their morale is low or very low
37% say morale is average
27% say morale is high
49% unlikely to re-enlist
67% say the war was worthwhile
64% say their mission is clearly defined
1,935 US troops polled
The survey was based on a list of 17 questions the newspaper presented to 1,935 US soldiers in 50 military camps over a three-week period in August.
The paper admitted that the findings had not been obtained through classic polling methods, and that "the results cannot be projected onto the entire military population in Iraq".
"We conducted a 'convenience survey', meaning we gave it to those who happened to be available at the time rather than to a randomly selected cross-section," said David Mazzarella, the newspaper's editorial director.
The Stars and Stripes began as a military newspaper during the US Civil War in the 1860s.
It is partly funded by the US Defence Department, but the Pentagon does not have editorial control over the content.