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Some active-duty troops along the US-Mexico border returning to home bases this week

Soldiers from Ft. Riley, Kansas, work alongside with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents at the Hidalgo, Texas, port of entry, to strengthen areas along the border Nov. 2. (Senior Airman Alexandra Minor/U.S. Air Force)
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Some active-duty troops assigned to the U.S.-Mexico border have completed their missions and the Defense Department announced Monday that some units have started sending servicemembers back to their home bases.

Military engineers have replaced all concertina wire along the border as part of the “border hardening” mission, officials at U.S. Army North confirmed. This allows certain engineering, logistics and headquarters elements to return to their home bases to prepare for other missions. A timeline for redeployment was not provided Monday.

Remaining units, as well as troops on alert, will continue to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents requirements along the southern border.

Peaking at about 5,800, the number of active-duty servicemembers at the border is now about 5,200, with 2,200 in Texas, 1,350 in Arizona and 1,650 in California, according to the Pentagon.

The number will decrease to at least 3,000 by the holidays, according to The Associated Press. Units identified by U.S. Northern Command as having the capabilities required to continue the mission will remain at the border through Jan. 31. This could be units already on the border, or similar units that could replace them, according to a statement from Army North.

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“This allows the services to continue supporting global requirements that were already in place prior the request for assistance from [the Department of Homeland Security],” the statement reads.

The mission was originally announced to end Dec. 15.

President Donald Trump ordered the deployment of troops in late October in response to a caravan of Central American migrants moving toward the U.S. border. The number of migrants has been declining. In addition to building barriers, troops have provided additional security for Border Patrol agents.

Officials who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly said there is less need for combat engineers and helicopter transport crews. But many of the military police will remain.

The Defense Department also has about 2,250 National Guard soldiers along the border for a separate mission with Border Patrol. The two deployments combined are projected to cost $210 million. But this estimate came before the active-duty mission was extended beyond Dec. 15.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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