A group of soldiers from the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division aired their grievances on American national television on Wednesday.

As far as they were concerned, only one man is to blame: Rumsfeld.

"If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask him for his resignation," one soldier told ABC's Good Morning America show.

   

Asked by a reporter what his message would be for Rumsfeld, another said: "I would ask him why we are still here? I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq."

 

The division had been told several times over the past few weeks that they would be going home soon.

 

Already deployed for nearly eight months, the Pentagon announced this week it was extending their stay, with a vague promise to get them home by September if the security situation allows.

 

Security concerns

 

The 9,000-strong division was the first US army unit to enter Baghdad after driving through southern Iraq from Kuwait.

 

The rise in resistance attacks against US occupation troops in Iraq has also taken its toll on the soldiers.

 

One hundred forty-seven US combat deaths has now equaled the number killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

 

US occupation soldiers are
not welcome in many areas
of Iraq

In some areas, like Falluja US forces have had to pull out of certain areas due to security concerns.

 

Aljazeera's correspondent in Iraq reported on Thursday the occupation forces withdrew from the Falluja dam area on the Euphrates River and handed over security to locals.

 

Currently, there are some 230,000 US troops serving in and around Iraq, including nearly 150,000 inside Iraq and 12,000 from Britain and other countries.

 

Streching thin

 

The US has had no luck in convincing other countries to contribute troops to Iraq.

 

This, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, has driven the Pentagon to consider sending National Guard troops to Iraq.

 

The newspaper on Thursday said the Pentagon could start a call-up of as many as 10,000 US National Guard soldiers by this winter to bolster forces in Iraq.

   

Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the US military thin, the report said, and soldiers there still face danger every day.

   

One senior US defense official, asked by the Journal if he had ever seen the Army stretched so thin, said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.

 

Deployments

   

National Guard soldiers would likely not be deployed until March or April after they complete two or three months of training, the paper said.

 

Their lengths of service could last 12 to 16 months each including training.

 

Twenty-one of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are already in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans, the paper said.

 

Three other brigades cannot currently be sent abroad, leaving nine brigades, or 45,000 troops, as relief for deployed soldiers, the report said.

   

Some of those forces are being held back in case they are needed near North Korea or in Afghanistan, further limiting US options in Iraq, the Journal said.