July 14 — The Army said Monday that thousands of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers have had their deployment in Iraq extended, dashing hopes that the troops would be home by September.

THE 3RD INFANTRY Division deployed 16,500 troops to Iraq and was a leading force in the assault on Baghdad. The division suffered 36 deaths — more than any other unit in the war — and some of its troops have been in the region since September.
Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, the division’s commander, said last week he hoped the division’s 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams of roughly 9,000 soldiers could return home to Fort Stewart within the next six weeks.
But homecomings for those soldiers, as well as the division’s 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, have now been postponed indefinitely, Fort Stewart spokesman Richard Olson said Monday.
“Now, that time frame has basically gone away, and there is no time frame,” Olson said.
“It’s damned obvious why they’re not coming home as promised — there’s no stability in place yet,” in Iraq, an Army official told NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski.
The extension order will pertain to the 1st and 2nd brigades of the Army’s 3rd Infantry division, many of whom have been in the Iraq area now for nearly a year.
The Army’s 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, was due to rotate into Iraq to replace the 3rd Infantry Division, but now it is unclear what that timetable is.

Several thousand 3rd Infantry troops, including the 3rd Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Benning in Columbus, began returning last week. Their homecomings are not affected.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told senators last week that he expected the entire 3rd Infantry Division to be back home by the end of September.
In the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam’s government in April, it was expected that the 3rd Infantry Division would go home by June. But the soldiers were kept longer because of a surge of anti-U.S. violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in central Iraq.