Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria.

.. President Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

.. In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” In response, Mr. Kim said he would deploy the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States, and described Mr. Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

.. on Jan. 2, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., warned the 200 civilians and service members in the audience that more Special Forces personnel might have to shift to the Korea theater from the Middle East in May or June, if tensions escalate on the peninsula.

.. Military officials said General Milley has cited the ill-fated

  • Battle of the Kasserine Pass during World War II, when unprepared American troops were outfoxed and then pummeled by the forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Germany. General Milley has also recently mentioned
  • Task Force Smith, the poorly equipped, understrength unit that was mauled by North Korean troops in 1950 during the Korean War.

.. fretted about a loss of what he has called muscle memory: how to fight a large land war, including one in which an established adversary is able to bring sophisticated air defenses, tanks, infantry, naval power and even cyberweapons into battle.

.. There have been no travel warnings advising Americans to stay away from South Korea or Japan, and no advisories warning American businesses to be cautious.

.. It is unlikely that the Pentagon would launch military action on the Korean Peninsula without first warning Americans and others there, military officials said — unless the Trump administration believes that the United States could conduct a one-time airstrike on North Korea that would not bring any retaliation from Pyongyang to nearby Seoul.

.. Some officials in the White House have argued that such a targeted, limited strike could be launched with minimal, if any, blowback against South Korea — a premise that Mr. Mattis views with skepticism,

.. But for Mr. Mattis, the planning serves to placate Mr. Trump.

.. protects Mr. Mattis from suggestions that he is out of step with Mr. Trump.

.. The maneuvers were aimed at forcing an enemy to fight on different fronts early in combat.

.. Officials said maneuvers practiced in the exercise, called Panther Blade, could be used anywhere, not just on the Korean Peninsula.

.. Another exercise, called Bronze Ram

.. Air Force B-1 bombers flying from Guam have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula

..  B-52 bombers based in Louisiana are expected to join the B-1s stationed on Guam later this month

.. three B-2 bombers and their crews had arrived in Guam from their base in Missouri.

.. unlike the very public buildup of forces in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war .. the Pentagon is seeking to avoid making public all its preparations for fear of inadvertently provoking a response by Mr. Kim

.. “I’ll also add that right now, the Defense Department is in support of Secretary of State Tillerson, who’s got a campaign to be the lead with North Korea in a diplomatic endeavor,” General Jamieson said.

Obama’s ‘Boots on the Ground’: U.S. Special Forces Are Sent to Tackle Global Threats

Even as Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that he opposes American “boots on the ground” in far-flung parts of the world, his administration continues to carve out exceptions for Special Operations forces — with American officials often resorting to linguistic contortions to mask the forces’ combat role.