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Trump administration to extend troops at the border through 2021

Trump administration to extend troops at the border through 2021
© UPI Photo

U.S. troops will remain at the country’s border with Mexico through late next year, though the number of service members there will diminish by about 1,500, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE has approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to continue military support to the southern border, with up to 4,000 troops authorized through September 2021, according to a Defense Department statement.

The newly authorized number — which continues the now two-year-plus mission at the border — is 1,500 less than the currently approved troop level of roughly 5,500 and will take effect in October.

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The service members will largely be from the National Guard, in a support role to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, which cuts back on the number of active duty personnel at the border. Those troops currently make up roughly half of the service members deployed.

“DoD and DHS constantly review the situation along the border, adjusting requirements as necessary to maintain the safety and security of the American people,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in the statement.

Securing the U.S. southern border has been a hallmark of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE’s 2016 and 2020 election campaigns, with his oft-touted wall serving as the centerpiece of his agenda to crack down on illegal immigration. 

Months before the 2018 midterm elections, for example, Trump decided to send 5,000 U.S. troops along the border to handle an anticipated migrant caravan, a move criticized by Democrats in Congress as a political show.