Pentagon to begin withdrawing hundreds of active duty troops at border

The Pentagon soon will begin withdrawing some active duty service members at the U.S.-Mexico border, with 400 to 500 to be home before Christmas, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday.

“Some units have completed their mission and they have already started to partially redeploy. Other units have been identified to rotate home and will be returning home over the next several weeks,” Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

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Manning said that 5,200 service members currently remain at the southern border, down from its peak of about 5,900 service members.

Of the remaining forces, about 2,200 service members are in Texas, 1,650 in California and 1,350 in Arizona.

He would not say how soon the service members will return home or how many will stay through Jan. 31, the extended date of the deployment that Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE signed off on last week.

The active-duty service members — sent to the border ahead of the midterm elections to confront what President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE has characterized as an "invasion" of thousands of Central American immigrants seeking asylum — were expected to be relieved Dec. 15, when the mission was originally set to end.

Manning would only offer that “the numbers of troops that we have will be commensurate with the support” that Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) request from the Pentagon.

The Associated Press on Monday reported that about 2,200 of the active duty service members will be pulled from the border before the holidays, leaving 3,000 service members to assist border patrol agents.

Some of the military police and helicopter crews will remain to quickly respond if needed by border agents, officials told the AP.

An additional 2,300 National Guardsmen — sent to the border in a separate deployment in April — will remain until Sept. 30, 2019, Manning said.

The U.S. forces are not there to directly interact with the immigrants and instead have spent their time stringing up miles of razor wire and providing transportation and protection to CBP agents.

So far, the Pentagon estimates that the deployment of the active-duty service members to the border will cost $72 million.