American forces hoping to soon be sent home from Iraq have been told they will instead stay on indefinitely in the Gulf.
Continued attacks on coalition forces means the Third Infantry Division will have to stay put for the time being, the army has announced.
More than 30 US soldiers have died since President George W Bush announced the end of major hostilities on 1 May and morale among the troops is said to be at an all time low.
Are you directly affected by the decision? Is keeping the forces in place good for Iraq's future? Have the soldiers done enough there now?
This debate is now closed. Comments bellow reflect the balance of views we have received:
The president prematurely suggested the war had come to an end. And by suggesting that the job is over, those on the home front have begun to tune out while the American forces still have the difficult task of maintaining law and order. The president should be in tune with reality and not his PR advisors, as foreign soldiers are not regarded as liberators but as occupiers they will be fighting/policing until the day they leave.
Eric Hovius, Canada
Of course there is a morale crisis. I fought in Gulf War I and I thought it was a waste then. When you are fighting and see your friends die for no reason, it does something to you. It makes you want to take out the cowardly leaders who talk tough but aren't in your shoes. No, this won't be Vietnam. Americans will learn that they are not as powerful and tough as they thought. They were the aggressors. This is the end result of those actions. No sympathy here. What about the thousands of innocent Iraqis killed and maimed that are never mentioned now?
I have so long admired your wonderful country. Lately, I have been a bit confused. Are the people attacking Mr. Blair and his policies really the grandchildren of the tough WWII generation? Why is it that so many in your country fail to see the courage, honesty and integrity of Prime Minister Blair? Why is this generation so afraid to fight back against these radicals who kill in the most cowardly ways? It is a puzzle.
Carol Lane, United States
If the administration wants to salvage the 3rd ID's morale, it desperately needs to communicate the crucial role they HAVE to play for the future of Iraq. Otherwise all their effort and sacrifice will seem purposeless.
The US destroyed very little infrastructure, but is expected to rebuild what Saddam let deteriorate over decades. So stop whining, we'll get it done, and we'll turn the place back over to the Iraqis when we're done. It would be helpful if the media wasn't doing its best to destroy what morale there is. I'm sure Saddam's thugs are grateful for the support from the boys behind the microphones.
Willem Kok, Pittsburgh, USA
Pity the poor American forces who killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis and laid waste to their country. Not as much fun without your high-tech toys, is it?
God help those poor American troops out in Iraq and God help all those who love and cherish each one of them at home. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept."
If only the US gave the UN inspectors more time to find the WMD. The US was acting like the WMD are piled up at every street corner. The morale of the troops is low because they cannot get their regular supply of cigarettes, alcohol, candy bars, and adult magazines.
I'm going to scream if I read one more comment about the similarities between WW2 and the invasion of Iraq. They are not at all alike. I feel sorry for the soldiers who are out there, but at least they know they'll be able to come home at some stage. What about the Iraqis who have had their entire lives turned around, where are they going to go? They are stuck there, looking at what is left of their country. The America public was in total support of this farce. Stop whining and think about people other than yourselves for once.
The morale might be low, but they are still the best fighting force for good on this earth. This will not turn into another Vietnam. We still support our troops. They have achieved a lot of good and honourable things. Everyone who went knew it would be very hard, and deadly. Yet they still went; real heroes all of them.
The reason why there is a crisis in the morale of US soldiers is bad planning. Nobody planned the rotation of these soldiers. Nobody planned to prepare the soldiers for policing a foreign land and people, and nobody planned an exit strategy.
My husband is currently in Iraq and I can honestly say that morale has seriously deteriorated both for the troops and the family members back home. 150,000 soldiers and many more family members are going through the agony of this deployment every day. We are the ones who face the consequences of bad planning, half-truths and a no return date in sight. It is time for the Bush administration to wake up and realise that it lost the last election by fewer votes than that. Alienating the military may cost it dearly in November 2004.
I hear a lot of people comparing the situation in Iraq at present to that of Vietnam. Actually it's a lot more like the recent conflict in Northern Ireland. Just like the British troops there, the American troops will discover that their heavy handed and controversial tactics will only lead to more attacks which in turn will lead to an even further drop in morale.
Robert Murphy, Ireland
I have to laugh when people refer to the US troops in Iraq as invaders. Don't these folks know that not one US solider wants to be over there right now? Don't they know many are mad at the US President for keeping them over there? In order to have an invasion, one must want to invade. And the Americans don't like our troops over there. So cool your jets, it's no invasion. How about the Iraqi people stand up and take some pride and help end this thing? As far as these tapes showing up of Saddam, this guy belongs in a stand-up. He is finished and wouldn't be coming back.
Maria, Chicago, USA
My daughter is in Iraq and I am anxious for the US to get the mission completed. I believe more troops may be able to expedite the process and help obtain, and then maintain, peace and safety so the Iraqi people can govern themselves. Most of the soldiers over there are normal Americans who serve the military part time. They can not possibly be expected to perform as a full time soldier given the lack of post-war preparation. I say send more troops in an effort to get them all home quicker.
There is certainly a crisis of morale amongst the troops deployed in Iraq. The ground reality is still that they are considered invaders by most of the locals, despite all the efforts of good-will establishment by the soldiers and their countries. With US and UK still not able to justify the war - the soldiers are low on morale. Present troops should be withdrawn and an internal Iraqi government formed as soon as possible. Replacing present soldiers with UN troops may be a reasonable transient solution.
I can understand why US troops in Iraq are unhappy at not having been rotated. At the same time it is very difficult to rotate forces with other units which do not know the lie of the land, especially, when you take into account the current security situation. Having seen recent news footage, the US troops are not even attempting to win the "hearts and minds" of the local populace. They walk every where looking straight up or at the horizon. British troops know through similar security nightmares such as Bosnia and Northern Ireland that to get the baddies, you talk to the people and attempt to be their friends while at the same time keeping spacings and ballooning to make yourself a harder target. Take a step back, have a think and look at what your allies do differently. Then the tide may begin to turn.
I blame the Iraqi public. The US soldiers don't want to be there and the Iraqis don't want them there, but they are there because the Iraqis keep misbehaving. So, a solution that is exactly what everyone seems to want; the Iraqis behave themselves, the US soldiers no longer have any reason to stay, they are happy, the Iraqi public is happy as there are no longer US troops in their country, the US and British public are happy as they are no longer paying taxes to ensure the safety of a nation of ingrates, France & Germany are happy as the coalition forces are no longer in the country; the list goes on.
Graeme Phillips, UK
The crisis in morale shows exactly why it was so important to have UN backing for the war. By alienating so many countries with an arrogant attitude, the coalition has made it harder to gain their support now. If an effective NATO/UN peacekeeping force is to be sent in, a massive diplomatic effort is now required by the US and UK to re-build those bridges destroyed before the conflict.
Tim Porter, UK
They thought they were going on a picnic and now they face the reality. But this is war & being soldiers they should have thought about it before signing the dotted line. It still is risky even if you're a member of the most powerful "invading" army in the world. And generally invaders are not welcome. They will have to stay there till Iraq is "stabilised" Having invaded a country without UN backing, now US has no right to ask UN to send peacekeepers.
The coalition forces invaded Iraq assuming that they can achieve their objectives with their military power. Same thing happened in Afghanistan too. What they did not realise was that they can win the war but not the people of these countries. They are in for a long haul and will leave without achieving anything to be proud of
How could there NOT be a crisis of morale? GIs are getting killed everyday, there aren't enough of them to do the job right, the Iraqis clearly resent their presence, and the Bush administration is in a state of denial, only concerned with the political fallout of issues such as the lack of WMDs and the President's faulty use of intelligence. As has been the case throughout, Bush and his political handlers are seriously undermining what was an otherwise brilliant military campaign, with their arrogance and unwillingness to accept the realities on the ground. The US military should be commended for a job well done, unfortunately at the same time the political leadership is failing miserably. Thus the low morale of the troops on the ground. The current stalemate is untenable in the long run.
American morale is bound to drain out in Iraq as it did in Vietnam, as the financial cost and the human toll of the war keeps mounting. The only question now is whether the debacle will be coming on fast enough to torpedo George W Bush's re-election in 2004.
Jon Sveinsson, Iceland
I've thought from the start this Iraq thing was Bad Idea. But what's really upsetting is that the people who have been chomping at the bit to go after Saddam for the past decade or more seem to have had Zero Clue what it would actually take. Low morale weakens anybody's spirit; but when it's spirit you need most to do your job, that's bad news. US Military commanders told Rumsfeld they would need more troops from the start and he nixed their plan. Now we have proof there's no way to do this on the cheap. If the infantry can't come home, we need to find some way to provide them some R&R in country. We also need to completely repair their infrastructure immediately. Our first step should have been to get the utilities and food supplies stable, the better. And it's time to mend fences with UN and the rest of NATO. Why weren't we prepared for this?
Lisa Hone, USA
American soldiers were and are supposed to do this job, to police the nation. International Humanitarian Law clearly states that occupational force has the obligation to provide law and order. It's strange how the United States only seem interested in multilateralism and sharing the burden when it is convenient to them. In the light of their refusal to go along blindly with the American invasion, accusing the UN and the Europeans of not 'having any heart' for the Iraqi people is intellectually unfair and highly disrespectful to the many victims of American bombs among Iraqi civilians.
Marc Van Lint,
What Iraq needs is an international UN-approved peacekeeping force. Its only natural that the morale of the US forces is low. First they all know that they are not welcome by many Iraqis, second its a war which is based on deception, and third watching over your shoulders every time you venture out is too great a burden to carry, fourth not knowing when you will go back home is depressing to say the least and lastly they, US soldiers, do not believe this cause is worth dying for.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE
The BBC should really try to show a balanced view of the Iraq situation. Allied troops are naturally homesick after two years of fighting to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq from cruel, repressive regimes.
How can the morale of the soldiers be high when the media is having a debate on the subject and parliament is openly discussing the morality of the war?
Khalid Rahim, Canada
American soldiers did their job by toppling Saddam Hussein's government. Now, they have to do a job that they weren't supposed to do, police a nation. If the U.N or the Europeans have any heart they would send in peacekeepers while U.S special ops searched for Saddam Hussein.
The best solution at this point is for the occupying forces to be replaced by a more "independent" force with the UN becoming involved as soon as possible. In the presence of invading forces, Iraq will wind up with either a dictatorial or a corrupt government.
Morale always declines with unclear objectives. Our force is too small in size and the risk grows everyday. If you think morale in the field is bad, check what is going on at home. I wish the Administration would think about this issue more seriously.
Terry Day, USA
Coalition forces should leave once the interim Iraqi government is in place and has services up and running. .
Now that the US is in Iraq that we should stay until the Iraqis can govern themselves. As for the troops being gone for too long, my husband and I were separated for over a year because of American immigration policy. Separation hurts but if we don't finish the job or turn it over to someone else it'll hurt a lot more.
A lot of people say we shouldn't leave until Iraq is stabilised. But what if this is a naive dream? Was Vietnam ever stabilised? I respect peoples' desire to "keep going until we finish the job" but what if we are in a hole and all we are doing is digging deeper?
The U.S & Britain are responsible for the mess they have 'unjustifiably' created. The soldiers must stay. They have yet to do good. Rebuild what you have destroyed U.S. & Britain.
With the admission by the top brass at the Pentagon that the army is involved in "guerrilla" combat, the question now has to be asked: Is the US now involved in another Vietnam-type war?
I am a military wife, of 17 years, and my husband is serving with 3rd ID, deployed since last September. Yes they are tired, worn and ready to be relieved. They should be rotated out very soon, I am not clear on why the rotations have not occurred, it seems to me that someone should be looking in to why these soldiers have gone way past duty and not been allowed to return home yet... seems someone dropped the ball. Surely there are national guard or reserves that could be rotated? I sure hope so¿ it's time they enjoyed the comforts of home again, SOON!
It is always a blow to be told that your tour has been extended, it is something that happens to British service personnel all the time. That said we have a very good R&R package and commanders use common sense in ensuring people get home. The real problem is the effect it has on the families as in many ways they are under greater pressure then the soldiers as they are having to cope with everyday life on their own.
The Americans must however realise that they are going to have a long and painful commitment to Iraq, the manpower required over the next few years will be huge. As months go by the attacks against them will not only increase but will become more organised, their retaliation and attitude will have the biggest effect as we learnt in NI. The heavy fist will have an adverse effect and more local people will join forces wishing to attack security forces.
Aidan F Coogan, UK
People are saying we shouldn't leave now because chaos will ensue? Isn't chaos a perfect description of the situation now? The US soldiers are vehemently resented out there. They should leave now. Iraqis are more than capable of looking after their own affairs and this 'white man's burden' attitude stinks.
Marie X, London
My husband has been in Iraq for six months now even though his unit has no mission there. Rumour has it they won't be back until October. He tells me unit morale is at an all time low and the soldiers have lost their faith in their chain of command because of all the broken promises. So, after seven years of service my husband is calling it quits because he cannot keep on fighting for a president and a chain of command he no longer trusts or believes in.
I strongly supported the war in Iraq, and still support the soldiers and their mission. To leave now would be demoralising to the soldiers and the Iraqi people. There may be soldiers that are finding themselves homesick, but speaking as a former soldier, it is part of the job and one expects this when they sign the dotted line.
William ex-Marine, USA
My husband is a Vietnam era veteran. Certainly if the Bush administration had given the weapons inspectors more time and UN troops to protect them before rushing to pre-emptively attack Iraq, the blood of American soldiers would not be spilled on the soil of Iraq. President Bush is incompetent, vindictive, unconcerned with the price American citizens pay in blood and money for his inadequacies. As with Vietnam the American people must demand accountability from the Bush administration. My heart aches for the soldiers and their loved ones.
Jackie, AZ, USA
As a Vietnam veteran I feel for the soldiers there in Iraq. I know how it feels when you see your military comrades fall. However, I do believe that we did the right thing in Iraq. I feel that we need to stay to make sure that the Iraqi people have set up their own government and the country is stabilised. I hope that the American people don't do what they did to the Vietnam soldiers when they returned back from their tour of duty. I do believe that we need to send in some fresh soldiers to help relieve some of those who have been there for a while. I do believe that the American people need to be more tolerant to see this operation through.
Paul J. Peterson,
Until the situation in Iraq returns to normal, the presence of the US troops there still remains essential, although dangerous.
Jones M. Ilukena, Zambia
A total pullout from Iraq would leave a dangerous power vacuum. It is time for the coalition to eat humble pie, and arrange to orderly hand Iraq over to the UN. This will allow for a more neutral military and political presence in the country.
Americans are not able to establish law and order in Iraq. They are not viewed as liberators but are there to keep the oil companies' interest intact! They should leave asap.
Symak Therani, Iran
US forces need to be rotated out of Iraq. Our military needs to be replaced with an International or Arab peace keeping force. Iraq is not post war Germany or Japan; the world was different then and we cannot rebuild Iraq the same way. Unless the US military can get the upper hand in Iraq soon, the potential for a full-blown guerrilla war we cannot hope to win becomes a real threat.
I'm sure there are loads of people out there who are disgusted by the US presence in Iraq, but I'm sure they'll agree that the only thing worse than the US entering Iraq is them leaving it now in a total power vacuum - a condition ripe for civil war.
James, London, UK
They should never have gone there and should be withdrawn immediately. Let the Iraqis run their own country.
Chris Farrand, USA
The situation is drifting into a Northern Ireland ie an obligatory policing operation that is appreciated by no-one. Iraqis need their infrastructure and their own administration quickly, or at least visible progress towards it, which is simply not happening. It was 'The Dear Leader' himself who said that to do nothing was not an option. The same applies now - this will not be solved by rhetoric.
I wish the media and others would stop assigning an arbitrary time frame for when the soldiers "should" come home. They must stay until the mission is complete - namely, the transfer of power from the US administration to a democratically elected Iraqi one. I hope that doesn't take a long time, but if you want to make sure that the casualties of the war did not die in vain, you must set up a proper foundation for Iraq to be "re-born", so to speak.
This is really a silly question. The damage is done. If we leave now, only chaos will ensue. At least by staying we have a real chance ensuring a real working society in Iraq. At this point, it would be immoral to abandon them to the minority who are the real thugs.
Ryan Petersen, California, USA
I was against this military campaign from the start, but now that the troops are in Iraq they l better do the job they were sent there to do and bring stability to a country destroyed for no justifiable reason!
James McEnaney, Scotland
I don't think they have any choice but to stay. US forces are still in Japan and Western Europe, what makes people think that this will be different if the US wants to maintain and enhance its sphere of influence? Speaking of which, why is the UK still in Germany? Are we making sure they don't attack the Italians?
David D, USA (ex-UK)
Bill Clinton ran out of Somalia when the going got tough. Look what it got us, 9/11. If the USA had told our military to leave 3 months after the end of WWII, most of Europe would be speaking Russian today. At the end of WWII most of our military had been away from home for 3 years. The press reporting "major problems" comes from a lack of perspective and a general level of incompetence.
It is unfortunate that the Bush administration has not foreseen these consequences. It is time for the US to seek the help of the UN to set up an international peace keeping force, and only after this the US troops can be relieved of their responsibility. My heart and support goes to the young women and men of the US army.
I strongly opposed the fact that US troops were sent to Iraq in the first place. US hegemony has now gone too far. What do you call a country invading another without consent and imposing a government which will be controlled by them? Well I learnt that such a thing is called imperialism.
Marcia Ashong, USA/Ghana
If we would have left after four months on the beaches of Normandy, the world would indeed be different today.
Paul, Tampa, FL. USA
The US cannot pull out of Iraq until the country is stabilised; the consequences are simply unthinkable. However, it's equally unthinkable for our so-called leaders to treat our soldiers like pawns on a chessboard. They are human beings. Bring in fresh troops. Share the burden. Let those who have done their duty come home!
I supported our President, I supported this action, I felt it was just in many ways. However, I have family actively serving in Iraq, but we are sad, disappointed, worried, irritated, and aggravated, and all we can do is pray. We are also scared for our soldiers.
As a Vietnam veteran I have great empathy for those who are serving and facing the extreme dangers of combat. Sadly, I believe that those same feelings cannot be real in a leader who did his level best to keep out of harm's way.
Bill Bowman, USA
I just watched an interview with an unnamed soldier of the 3rd Division. When the reporter asked what he would say to Donald Rumsfeld, if he were there, he replied, "I would ask him for his resignation". Another soldier said that he "doesn't believe anything the army tells him now." This is disturbing. These soldiers and their buddies clearly believe that the chain of command has broken faith with them. This would indicate that their officers also are angry. I am an American soldier myself, and this really worries me, more than reports of violence against our forces.
Michael G, US
This is typical of many countries. The top politicians and their families are not in the line of fire or facing frontline danger.
So, they can make decisions without regards to the sacrifices of those who are in their 20s and early 30s.
I have family and friends serving in Iraq and am of course concerned for both their safety and their desire to return to the US. While I did not vote for this administration, I am a citizen of the US and I do subscribe to our form of representative government. To renege on a promise to our fellow citizen-soldiers reflects poorly not only upon the administration, but also upon me.
Robert Wagner, US
I strongly agree with the US military command's announcement of the Third Infantry Division's stay to help quell the increased attacks on the allied troops. It is believed their departure from Iraq would pave way for the remnants of Saddam loyalists to attack the allied forces and also to put in jeopardy the hard won freedom of the Iraqi people.
Dennis Danso-Abeam, Ghana
Nothing has changed in the service. When I was extended an extra five months in Korea 1977-79 no one said a thing. You know why? They have to. You don't go halfway and quit. Not if you want to win. And only then can you return. As soon as the Iraqis see we are wanting to help them, which most do already, then can we leave. Give me liberty or give me death.
Hardships are implied and expected in the military, but to keep members of the armed forces away from their homes and loved ones for that long is inhumane. This callous attitude also explains the high attrition rate, as well as complicating future recruiting. Far more thought should be given by the so-called analysts to those left behind, especially the children of armed forces sent to Iraq.
Yes, I am affected by this decision. My boyfriend was to have been home already, but every day there is a different rumour as to when he will arrive back. Some days the rumours have him returning in September, other days it is a year from now. I think it is time to begin sending home American troops. I do not feel that it is ideal for the US to have such a presence during this stage of post war activities. I certainly don't have any solutions myself, but I really don't think things are working out so well right now.
I feel for them as I don't expect they were told this could happen but on the other hand they have signed up to be soldiers and should realise this is part and parcel of life in the army.
Andy Townsend, UK
Rotate our armed services out of Iraq. Don't keep them longer than six months. Not only are you hurting morale - your PR for new recruits will decrease. In Vietnam, as bad as it was the soldier had a date to go home and it stayed the date. Don't play with our sons and daughters lives - put yourself in their position.
It is so apparent that all those great minds never planned for the peacekeeping part. What a shame, and our kids are suffering because of it.
We have a mission in Iraq and I have supported it. But bring the Third ID and others home. Bring in new soldiers, rested and ready.
Georgene Bender, US
Wasn't there an air of inevitability about this? None of the main problems caused by the conflict have been resolved (infrastructure not functioning, politically unstable, law and order not restored), so how can the US walk away? I feel sorry for those involved and their families, they are paying the real price for the decision made by the politicians. Saddam has gone, but a lasting peace seems a long way away.
My heart goes out to the military and their families. The military should not have been sent there in the first place. What Bush's true motives were, we can only guess. I hope that Americans wake up and throw his regime out of office next year!!!
David Hamlin, US