The directive from Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo (left) is meant to keep up troop strength at a time when the supply is running thin. In the statement to troops and supplied to CNN, Cucolo writes:
"I need every soldier I've got, especially since we are facing a drawdown of forces during our mission. Anyone who leaves this fight earlier than the expected 12-month deployment creates a burden on their teammates. Anyone who leaves this fight early because they made a personal choice that changed their medical status -- or contributes to doing that to another -- is not in keeping with a key element of our ethos."
The rule applies to all military and civilians serving under Cucolo in northern Iraq. Of the 22,000 people under Cucolo's command, 1,682 are women.
Cucolo admits the purpose of the order is mostly to have a "chilling effect" on behavior, but he doubts it would ever be fully prosecuted. If it were, however, it appears to be legal, he said.
"If push came to shove and there was prosecution, I think the rule would be upheld as a reasonable balance of the competing interests," he said.
Watch a CNN discussion of the issue: