SAN FRANCISCO - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of four US servicewomen to challenge a longstanding policy barring women from thousands of ground combat positions, citing the changing nature of warfare and fairness for career soldiers.

The women involved in the suit have all completed tours in Iraq or Afghanistan where they served in combat or led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen, the ACLU said. It added that their careers had been limited "by a policy policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

"Combat exclusion is an archaic policy which does not reflect the realities of modern warfare, the values which our military espouses, or the actual capabilities of our service women," Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women's Action Network and former Marine captain, said in the ACLU statement announcing the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Northern California, names US Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta as a defendant.

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