WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is extending the military’s presence on the US-Mexico border until at least October 1, 2021, with the goal of replacing active-duty forces fully with 4,000 members of National Guard units.
The extension, which does not have to be approved by Congress, is for the fiscal year that runs from October 1, 2020, until September 30, 2021.
“This DoD support will primarily be sourced from the National Guard,” a Pentagon statement said. The statement noted that duties to be performed by military personnel will include those currently being carried out along the border, including detection and monitoring, logistics, and transportation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“Military personnel will not directly participate in civilian law enforcement activities,” the statement said.
There are about 5,000 U.S. forces on the U.S.-Mexico border, making it the third-largest deployment of troops in an active theater after the roughly 10,000 in Afghanistan and the 5,200 in Iraq.
Price tag so far: about $740 milion.
The U.S, deployment is roughly 2,900 active duty and 2,000 National Guard forces. National Guard troops first arrived in April 2018, while active forces began deploying around October 29, 2018.
As per formality, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the deployment after receiving a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.
About 2,200 National Guard troops were initially deployed to assist the Department of Homeland Security on the U.S.-Mexico border under Operation Guardian Support. That deployment started in April 2018 and is open-ended.
Active-duty troops first arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border on Oct. 29, 2018, and reached 5,600 on Nov. 8, 2018. That number edged up to 5,900 and then dropped steadily until Super Bowl Sunday when the Pentagon announced the deployment of 3,750 active troops.
The initial deployment, called Operation Faithful Patriot until the November mid-term elections, was to end in mid-December 2018. That was extended until Jan. 30, 2019, then extended again until Sept. 30, 2019, and then extended into 2020.
The last time U.S. forces were on the shared border was in 1916 and 1917 when they entered Mexico to chase the outlaw Pancho Villa. Those troops were awarded a special medal for that deployment.
Mexico has long been wary of the U.S. military, a concern that started with the U.S.-Mexico war of 1846 to 1848, in which Mexico lost half of its territory.