Before the midterm elections, as a response to the caravan of migrants traveling from Central America through Mexico, President Donald Trump deployed thousands of active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the election, officials have sent mixed signals about the duration and mission of the deployment. Politico reports that the Army chief commanding those forces says a drawdown of border troops could begin as early as this week. But in Washington, it’s a different story, with thousands of Thanksgiving turkey being shipped out to troops for the holiday, suggesting that soldiers will be on the border for awhile.
Tara Copp is Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and says criticism of the border deployment is growing, and its actual purpose and duration is still unclear.
Copp says incoming House Committee on Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, said the troop deployment is a political stunt, and racially motivated. He wants the troops brought home quickly.
Copp says Defense Secretary James Mattis denied that the deployment was a stunt, but didn’t explain what the military’s mission on the border actually entails.
Copp says the presence of large numbers of migrants in Tijuana may result in changes to the military deployment.
“I think that there’s discussions going on right now to maybe shift some of the resources that were in Texas and Arizona potentially to California,” Copp says.
Copp says Mattis has admitted that the border deployment is highly unusual,
“When Mattis was thinking about previous examples of when … this many active-duty forces [had been sent] on an domestic deployment, he had to reach back to 100 years ago when they were countering Pancho Villa’s incursion into New Mexico,” Copp says.
The approaching holiday season, and the troops’ proximity to restaurants and other symbols of American holiday life and culture, are making the deployment challenging for officials to explain.
“I think that there’s a general awareness in the Pentagon that this is just not great optics,” Copp says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.