WASHINGTON — More than 5,600 active duty troops are now at the border with Mexico, with a top number of 7,000 being deployed still the forecast, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The latest update of numbers shared with Pentagon reporters showed 1,500 troops in Arizona, 1,300 in California and 2,800 in Texas, according to numbers provided Thursday by U.S. Northern Command.
No forces have been deployed to New Mexico. The deployment is in its second week.
“The number will fluctuate as more units and personnel deploy into the operating area,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday. “DOD (Department of Defense) anticipates more than 7,000 active duty troops will be supporting CBP (Customs and Border Protection).”
On Wednesday, the Pentagon dropped the name “Operation Faithful Patriot” from the deployment. “In support of Customs and Border Protection, we are not calling it ‘Operation Faithful Patriot,’ we are calling it ‘border support’,” Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, told TMN.
The deployment of the troops is in response to thousands of migrants from Central America traveling to the U.S. border to seek asylum. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump again referred to the migrants — known as a caravan — as “an invasion,” during remarks made at a White House press conference.
Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, told Pentagon reporters last week that the active-duty troops will arrive first in Texas, then fly to Arizona and California.
O’Shaughnessy said the troops will use military bases in those states as jumping-off points to help secure the entire border, including New Mexico — but did not detail how “The Land of Enchantment” border would be covered.
Questions about New Mexico sent to Northern Command were not immediately answered. New Mexico’s border with Mexico is 210 miles, roughly 1 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to reference books.
The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles, of which about 670 miles has various fencing. Other border equipment includes cameras, sensors and other devices, Pentagon officials have told reporters.
Texas has the largest chunk, with 1,254 miles. That part of the border has 28 international bridges and border crossings, including “two dams, one hand-drawn ferry, and 25 other crossings that allow commercial, vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” according to the Texas Department of Transportation website.
The Arizona border is 378 miles. The Tohono O’odham reservation has 75 miles of international border. There are three Native American nations that abut the Arizona-Mexico border: Tohono O’odham; Cocopah; and the Kickapoo Traditional tribe.
O’Shaughnessy told reporters the mission will include transporting Customs and Border Protection personnel, providing medical care, building crossings for vehicles and stringing concertina wire — a form of barbed wire. The troops’ duties also will involve constructing facilities to house CBP agents along the border, he said. It also will focus on hardening entry points to the U.S. and gaps along the border, Pentagon officials have told reporters.
The troops come from Ft. Bliss, Texas; Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; Ft. Carson, Colorado; Ft. Detrick, Maryland; Ft. Knox, Kentucky; Ft. Hood, Texas; Ft. Meade, Maryland; Ft. Riley, Kansas; Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Peterson Air Force, Colorado; Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia; Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, and U.S. Transportation Command, according to the Pentagon release.
“DOD has a long history of support for DHS and CBP in their mission to secure the U.S. border,” the Pentagon statement said. “All units supporting USNORTHCOM’s mission to support CBP will adhere to authorities, law and policy.”