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US Soldiers Sue Pentagon Over Extension of Duty

Eight U.S. soldiers are suing the Pentagon over a policy that they say is extending the deployment of thousands of service personnel in Iraq beyond their agreed commitment to service. The lawsuit comes as more soldiers are being ordered deployed to Iraq to contain an on-going insurgency.

The eight soldiers are challenging what is known as the U.S. Army's stop loss policy, put in place because of the Pentagon's need to maintain experienced combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under it, the army is requiring soldiers deployed to either country to remain on duty as long as their units are deployed, even if that time extends beyond their terms of enlistment.

The Army says the move is needed to maintain a cohesive force during battle. And, Lieutenant Colonel Pamela Hart defends the policy as standard during wartime and says it is written into military enlistment contracts.

"It says that soldiers may be required to serve on active duty for the entire period of the war or emergency and for six months after its end," he said. "The whole contract is quite explanatory in that if the military needs you during a period of service, war, that you as a volunteer soldier have an obligation to serve."

But Staughton Lynd, an admitted war opponent and one of the lawyers representing the soldiers bringing this lawsuit, charges if that's the case, the Pentagon failed to make clear the full commitment that could be required of soldiers during wartime.

"When we ask a young person to risk his or her life in harm's way, we owe it to that young person fully to explain the circumstances they may confront so far as the length of their service is concerned once they sign that contract," he said.

Thousands of soldiers are affected by the stop loss policy, which the Pentagon also used during the Gulf War in 1991. All but one of the eight soldiers who brought this suit against the Pentagon did so anonymously, fearing they could be subject to retaliation.