Overnight Defense: Trump says he will deploy military to border | Pushes plan to pull troops out of Syria | But top military officials say mission isn't over | Iran deadline nears

Overnight Defense: Trump says he will deploy military to border | Pushes plan to pull troops out of Syria | But top military officials say mission isn't over | Iran deadline nears
© Greg Nash

THE TOPLINE: Following President Trump's suggestion last week that the military could help pay for a border wall between Mexico and the Unites States, the commander in chief went a step further and said Tuesday he also wants to deploy U.S. troops to guard the southern border until the proposed structure is built.

The president told reporters that he has been discussing the idea with Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military," Trump said during a meeting with Baltic state leaders, with Mattis sitting at his side. 

"That's a big step. We really haven't done that before, or certainly not very much before."


THE BACKSTORY: For the past several days, Trump has vented his frustration about the lack of progress in building a U.S.-Mexico border wall, one of his signature campaign promises, along with what he sees as "weak laws" against illegal immigration. 

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last month includes $1.6 billion for border security – as well as restrictions on how the money can be spent - far short of the $25 billion demanded by Trump for the wall.  

The president last week suggested that the Pentagon could redirect funding to pay for the wall, but such a move would require congressional approval that the president would likely not receive. 

No further details were provided about the possible troop deployment.


MEXICO ISN'T PLEASED: After Trump's border wall comments, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S. said that his country has formally asked "for clarification of the president's statements, both through the State Department and the Homeland Security Department," Gerónimo Gutiérrez said on CNN International.

"The important thing is that both countries share the idea of having a secure border," he added. "We don't always agree in how to achieve that objective, and I do expect that, in the next few hours, we will get clarification on this issue."

Gutiérrez said that militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border would not be welcomed by the Mexican government, but added that further clarification by the Trump administration was necessary to determine "where we are."


THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE: Sending troops to the border would be an unusual but not unprecedented step.

Former President George W. Bush deployed 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border in 2006 to assist the Border Patrol while more border agents were hired and trained. Former President Obama made a similar deployment in 2010, sending 1,200 guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico frontier. 

National Guard troops primarily served in support roles during past border deployments.



TRUMP WANTS TROOPS OUT OF SYRIA: Also on Tuesday, Trump signaled that he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, but said no final decision has been made.

"I want to get out. I want to bring those troops home," Trump said at a news conference with leaders from Baltic states.

"Seven trillion dollars in the Middle East over the last 17 years, we get nothing out of it ... except death and destruction. It's a horrible thing." 

The president pointed to America's success in combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region, adding that he will consult with his advisers and foreign leaders about the American military presence in the war-torn nation.


BUT TOP MILITARY, STATE OFFICIALS SAY NOT YET: U.S. Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel said "well over 90 percent" of land once held by ISIS has been liberated, particularly in the north and eastern portions of the country, but that the military must maintain its presence there.

"There still are some areas where they are present and that we will have to continue to operate on," Votel said at a U.S. Institute of Peace event in Washington.

Speaking alongside Votel, Brett McGurk, the State Department's special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS, agreed that "ISIS is not finished."

"We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission and our mission isn't over, and we're going to complete that mission," McGurk said.


CLOUDS FORM OVER IRAN DEAL AS TRUMP DEADLINE NEARS: Dark clouds are forming over the Iran nuclear deal as the calendar marches toward a May 12 deadline set by President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE to improve the accord or see the United States effectively withdraw from it.

When Trump extended Iran's sanctions relief in January, he pledged it would be the last time unless European allies agree to a supplemental deal to fix what the president sees as the fundamental problems with the nuclear pact negotiated by the Obama administration.

And while negotiations with the Europeans are ongoing, hopes for a solution are increasingly fading.

"Every single day I have a new percentage about whether we're going to get a new deal. Today is 51/49 no deal," said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who favors changing the deal instead of scrapping it.



Kenneth Bertram, the Principal Assistant for Acquisition for the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, will speak at a National Defense Industrial Association breakfast at 8 a.m. in Arlington, Va.

The chief executives of AM General and Cubic Corporation will discuss how size matters in defense contracting at 4:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. 



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