Pentagon: ‘There will be additional force’ beyond 5,200 troops sent to border
The Pentagon on Tuesday said the number of troops to be sent to the border beginning this week is expected to rise.
“What I can confirm is there will be additional force over and above the 5,239; the magnitude of that difference, I don’t have an answer for you,” U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command head Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told reporters at the Pentagon.
O’Shaughnessy added that the final number of troops is “undetermined,” and will change as the Pentagon works to “refine the requests” from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The cost of the deployment “is unknown at this time.”
O’Shaughnessy announced a day prior that the U.S. military will send more than 5,200 active duty service members to the border in Texas, Arizona and California as part of Operation Faithful Patriot. He noted then it was “just the start of this operation.”
A little more than 1,000 troops are already in place in Texas. But O’Shaughnessy said Tuesday “that number is literally, as we speak, changing because you have additional forces that are moving in today to Texas.”
An eventual 1,800 troops from seven different bases will reach Texas “in days,” 870 of which will be part of the headquarters there that will be in charge of command and control, he said.
Thousands of additional reserve forces are on hand to be sent to the border.
President Trump last week ordered the Pentagon to move forward on the troop deployment in response to a shrinking caravan of Central Americans that he has portrayed as a threat to national security.
In a Monday tweet Trump called the caravan an “invasion” full of “Many Gang Members and some very bad people.” Trump has also spoken of Middle Easterners being a part of the caravan, without providing specific evidence, suggesting it poses a terrorism threat.
O’Shaughnessy would only say that Operation Faithful Patriot is meant to “secure the border.”
When pressed by reporters, O’Shaughnessy said the Pentagon has viewed the caravan as “different than what we’ve seen in the past.”
He said it was “clearly an organization at a higher level than we have seen before,” but would not provide additional details.
In addition to queries on cost and final troop numbers, questions remain as to why the administration has sent active duty troops to the border.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are mostly prohibited from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities.
O’Shaughnessy stressed that the troops will support CBP agents already at the border as part of Operation Secure Line.
“CBP personnel are absolutely the primary and principle members that will be handling specifically the migrants,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that “there could be incidental interaction between our military members and migrants and other personnel that may be in that area.”
To address this, “we are making sure our soldiers, our Marines are going to be fully trained on how to do that interaction — they are going to understand the rules for that interaction,” O’Shaughnessy said.
U.S. troops “have very clear guidance we are giving them. It’s the standard rules for the use of force. It’s similar to if we were going to any location within the United States,” he said.
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