The U.S. military is discussing significant changes in its war plans to adhere to President Obama’s new strategic guidance that downplays preparing for conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and counts on allies to provide additional troops.
U.S. Central Command believes it can destroy or significantly degrade Iran’s conventional armed forces in about three weeks using air and sea strikes, according to a defense source familiar with the discussions.
Such strikes are an option in a response to Tehran’s striking U.S. and international ships in the Persian Gulf and attempting to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil is transported.
The Pentagon now is conducting a step-by-step surge of forces in the Gulf. It is maintaining two aircraft carriers in the region and is increasing the number of mine-detection ships and helicopters.
Aviation Week reported the Air Force recently dispatched its premier penetrating strike fighter, the F-22 Raptor, to a base in the United Arab Emirates, across the Gulf from Iran
A smaller, more agile force
Army Lt. Col. T.G. Taylor, a spokesman at U.S Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Gulf, said the command does not discuss war planning.
“We plan for any eventuality we can and provide options to the president,” Col. Taylor said. “We take our guidance from the secretary of defense and from our civilian bosses in D.C. So any kind of guidance they give us, that’s what we go off of.”
The defense source said the U.S. would respond to an invasion of South Korea by the North primarily with massive air and sea power. It would be up to the South Korean army to do most of the ground fighting, and it would have the lead in stability operations for a defeated North.
Overall, the U.S. military is reducing the planned number of U.S. ground troops that would be needed in a major conflict and is counting on allies to fill the gap.
It also is expanding the number of days it would have to begin fighting one war and blunt an aggressor in another region.
Mr. Obama presented his eight-page strategic guidance in January as his vision of a smaller, more agile armed forces that would focus on air and sea power in two regions — the Pacific and the Persian Gulf.
He presented the document a month before the Pentagon announced how it would grapple with $487 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years. The hallmark savings: reduce ground forces by 90,000 soldiers and Marines.
The Obama guidance lists 10 “primary missions” for the armed forces. The guidance for counterinsurgency missions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, is significant as much for what the military will not do as what it will do: “The United States will emphasize non-military means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations,” it states.