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Mattis on border deployment: ‘We don’t do stunts in this department’

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018. (DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
November 01, 2018

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made it very clear this week that the most recent troop deployment to the southern border is not about politics.

When asked by reporters at the Pentagon if the latest deployment of 5,200 American troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is a political stunt, Mattis responded, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that up to 15,000 troops could be sent to the border in advance of the migrant caravan making its way through Mexico to the United States.

This, after it was announced earlier this week that an additional 5,200 troops would deploy to the border. Such a number of troops is comparable to the number of troops currently deployed to Afghanistan.

There are several ongoing, concurrent missions taking place at the southern border:

  • Operation Secure Line, which is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) mission to prepare for the arrival and attempted crossing of the migrant caravan;
  • Operation Guardian Support, which is the National Guard deployment of 2,100 troops via state governors to logistically support local law enforcement; and,
  • Operation Faithful Patriot, the most recently announced mission of 5,200 active duty U.S. troops to build barriers, erect wire fencing to secure gaps along the border and build tent cities, among other things.

The caravan is comprised of an estimated 7,000 migrants mostly from Honduras. It is currently said to be about 1,000 miles from the border.

It was announced earlier this week that the Pentagon will deploy an additional 5,200 U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, and troops would be sent from Texas, Arizona and California.

The number was a sharp increase from the 800-troop deployment that was reported last week, as the migrant caravan heads through Mexico toward the United States.

The caravan of approximately 7,000 migrants is trekking northward through Mexico with the goal of entering the U.S. Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico have failed to stop the caravan so far, prompting President Trump to announce he would follow through with his threat and begin cutting foreign aid to those countries.

President Trump in April signed an order that deployed the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, when there was another, smaller migrant caravan en route to the U.S. at that time.

Trump had said prior to that, that he was sending the military to guard the border until the wall between the U.S. and Mexico can be built. The move would help prevent illegal crossings, the President has said.

About 900 U.S. troops were deployed in the spring, and Trump had said he wanted between 2,000 and 4,000 troops deployed. There were reportedly already about 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to the southern border prior to the most recent announcement.

Trump had previously said that the U.S. military and border authorities have been notified that the incoming migrant caravan is considered a national emergency.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National [Emergency]. Must change laws!” Trump tweeted last month.

In October, Trump had warned that he would “call up” the U.S. military to close the U.S.-Mexico border if the migrant caravan was not stopped.