February 05, 2010 10:18
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said American ground forces may be unable to arrive in South Korea in time for an emergency in North Korea. Gates was speaking at the House Armed Services Committee when asked when U.S. ground forces could be fully ready for another battle in case of an emergency in North Korea following the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and deployment of forces to Afghanistan.
Gates told the committee that under present circumstances, U.S. ground troops would not be able to arrive in South Korea on the timeline required by the Korea-U.S. contingency plan. "It's just that they wouldn't get there as quickly because of the commitments that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said. "That's not to say they wouldn't get there." He added that the U.S. would instead be dependent on the Navy and Air Force before ground troops arrive.
The comments confirm the fears of some that if the U.S. is mired in long-term conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, rapid deployment elsewhere would suffer. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I would only add that, as you look at the timeline that you just described -- end of '11, Army's out of... Iraq -- it's the beginning of reset, really, for the Army in terms of equipment and actually training," suggesting that major operational plans would have to be revamped following troop withdrawal from Iraq.
In 2007, Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. should be able to handle three major emergencies -- in China, Iran, and North Korea -- by using Naval, Air Force and reserve forces, but it would not be able to meet the desired timelines, because when already involved in a war elsewhere it would have to remobilize and redeploy resources.
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