Pentagon reverses downward trend of US-Mexico border deployment

Pentagon reverses downward trend of US-Mexico border deployment

Active duty troops deploy concertina wire in a location along the Southwest border of the United States near Hidalgo, Texas (Customs and Border Protection photo)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is deploying 3,750 active troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing the downward trend of the mission that defense officials said had accomplished many of its stated goals.

The Sunday announcement will boost the number of active troops at the border to 4,350. The deployment numbers had been approved on Jan. 11 but was not revealed by the Pentagon despite earlier inquiries.

Approval of the request on Jan. 11 extended the duration of the mission until Sept. 30, 2019.

“That support includes a mobile surveillance capability through the end of September 2019, as well as the emplacement of approximately 150 miles of concertina wire between ports of entry,” the Pentagon statement said. “Additional units are being deployed for 90 days, and we will continue to evaluate the force composition required to meet the mission to protect and secure the southern border.”

The duties outlined are the same as the active troops have been performing since their initial deployment in late October and early November. In December, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis said they had completed many of those tasks.

Originally deployed in what was then called Operation Faithful Patriot, the troops’ tasks included erecting additional barriers, barricades, and fencing; providing medical and transportation assistance; operating command and control centers; creating temporary housing for Border Patrol; and providing personal protective equipment for border agents, Pentagon officials told reporters.

The name was dropped off before the November election. That original deployment, which peaked at 5,900, was to end in mid-December. It was extended first to Jan. 30, 2019, and then to Sept. 30, 2019.

In announcing the last extension, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement that the Pentagon “is transitioning its support at the southwestern border from hardening ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection, as well as concertina wire emplacement between ports of entry. DoD will continue to provide aviation support.”

Atop the list of duties: Install an additional 160 miles of concertina wire in Arizona and California, Pentagon officials said. Pentagon officials said on background that they would base their decision on capability needs and not the number of forces sought.

There are also about 2,200 National Guard troops helping DHS under “Operation Guardian Support;” that deployment started last April.

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