ARLINGTON, Va. — About 3,900 soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division will see their deployments in Iraq extended for about six weeks, defense officials said on Monday.

The Friedberg, Germany-based unit has been extended 46 days, said Army Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the 1st BCT, 1st AD, in a Monday e-mail to Stripes. Officials said the soldiers were scheduled to return home in January, but now could stay in country until almost March.

The division is being extended to allow the unit from the 3rd Infantry Division that is slated to replace it the minimum 12 months respite before deploying overseas again, officials said.

In June, soldiers with the 1st BCT, 1st AD were moved from northern Iraq to Ramadi to expand coalition forces’ tenuous control of the city.

The soldiers’ families already have been notified about the extension, and the Defense Department was expected to make a formal announcement on the extension later Monday, officials said.

This is the second time that soldiers with the 1st AD have been extended since the war in Iraq began.

In April 2004, the division’s deployment was extended from 12 to 15 months as the insurgency worsened.

News of the unit’s extension comes after officials decided in July to extend the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team up to four months to deal with rising sectarian violence in Baghdad.

Any hopes for a drawdown of U.S. troops by the end of the year have evaporated amid the rising violence in Iraq.

Last week, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters that it was unlikely that units now serving in Iraq would be extended. U.S. troop levels are now expected to remain at about 140,000 through spring.

There are now about 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.

“I think what we told those troops (about redeployment dates), unless there’s a real emergency, that’s when they’ll be coming home,” Abizaid said.

The 3rd ID already has served two tours in Iraq, including the initial invasion of the country in March 2003.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey told The Associated Press last week that the amount of time between deployments has shrunk this year from 18 months to 14 months.

In the case of the 3rd ID, it appears at least one brigade will get only about 12 months before heading to Iraq to replace the 1st BCT, 1st AD.

Stripes reporter Kevin Dougherty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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