Pentagon awaits new orders for border duties

Pentagon awaits new orders for border duties

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Soldiers and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7 practice non-lethal crowd control drills at the Calexico West Port of Entry in Calexico, Calif. on Tuesday. Military personnel is authorized to provide force protection for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (Pfc. Nyatan Bol/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is wrapping up its initial tasks assigned to the troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border and is waiting — and expecting — new requests to come its way shortly.

What those new tasks will be, how many forces they will require and how long the border deployment will churn evaded answers on Thursday, Pentagon officials said.

The current deployment of roughly 5,800 active-duty troops is to end on Dec. 15, in what was once called Operation Faithful Patriot. They join 2,100 National Guard troops sent to the border in the spring, in what has become an open-ended mission called Operation Guardian Support.

“They’re working on it right now and I know I have not received it yet,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Wednesday, regarding an extension of the deployment.

“We’ll react to the Department of Homeland Security if they ask for it,” Mattis said. “Right now we’re — we’re working with them on the staffs. It comes down to logistics issues right now primarily — how many miles of wire do they need, how much they defined.”

Pentagon officials told TMN on Thursday that nothing has changed from Mattis’ assessment.

Soldiers assigned to 937th Route Clearance Company install concertina wire pickets near the Sasabe Port of Entry at the Arizona on Wednesday. (Spc. Jennily LeonRodriguez/U.S Army)

(On Wednesday, National Public Radio reported that President Donald Trump is expected to extend the deployment of active-duty troops into January “and that part of the force may also be switched out for new troops.”)

Mattis said securing the ports of entry, one of the primary duties of the active troops, “are pretty much, I think, done,” Mattis said. “There’s a little on the flanks of a couple of them we’re still working on. So we’ll have to see if the — if the request extends further.”

He said Pentagon representatives meet daily with Department of Homeland Security counterparts to monitor progress and need.

“Every day we’re crossing off what we’re doing,” Mattis said. “We’re in some cases canceling certain things that we thought we needed before …” He said the troops are performing “normal execution of tasks.”

Mattis said that although active-duty troops were authorized to use force, he does not see that occurring.

“As far as the use of force, the Border Patrol is using what they believe is appropriate,” Mattis said. “We would be backing them up; they have multiple lines in front of them so right now I can’t even forecast what would be necessary after seeing the Border Patrol’s response under the pressure that we saw this last weekend.”

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