Troops at US-Mexican border to start coming home | Pakistan Today

Troops at US-Mexican border to start coming home

WASHINGTON: The 5,800 troops who were rushed to the southwest border amid US President Donald Trump’s pre-election warnings about a refugee caravan will start coming home as early as this week — just as some of those migrants are beginning to arrive.

Democrats and Republicans have criticized the deployment as a ploy by the president to use active-duty military forces as a prop to try to stem Republican losses in this month’s midterm elections.

The general overseeing the deployment told POLITICO on Monday that the first troops will start heading home in the coming days as some are already unneeded, having completed the missions for which they were sent. The returning service members include engineering and logistics units whose jobs included placing concertina wire and other barriers to limit access to ports of entry at the US-Mexico border.

All the troops should be home by Christmas, as originally expected, Army Lt General Jeffrey Buchanan said in an interview Monday.

“Our end date right now is 15 December, and I’ve got no indications from anybody that we’ll go beyond that,” said Buchanan, who leads the land forces of US Northern Command.

On Tuesday, Buchanan’s command appeared to back peddle on his statement after critics of the deployment called the decision to wind it down so soon new evidence it was unnecessary in the first place.

US Army North issued a brief statement insisting that “no specific timeline for redeployment has been determined.”

The plan to begin pulling back came just weeks after Trump ordered the highly unusual deployment.

In previous cases in which the military deployed to beef up security at the border, the forces consisted of part-time National Guard troops under the command of state governors who backed up US Customs and Border Protection and other law enforcement agencies.

But the newly deployed troops, most of them unarmed and from support units, come from the active-duty military, a concession the Pentagon made after Trump insisted that the deployment include “not just the National Guard.”

Buchanan confirmed previous reports that the military had rejected a request from the Department of Homeland Security for an armed force to back up Border Patrol agents in the event of a violent confrontation.

“That is a law enforcement task, and the secretary of Defence does not have the authority to approve that inside the homeland,” Buchanan said.

The closure earlier Monday of one entry point along the California border near Tijuana, Mexico, was only partial and did not require more drastic measures, Buchanan said.

“About half of the lanes were closed this morning, but that is it,” he reported. “No complete closures.”

Other ports might be closed fully in the future, he said, but he did not anticipate any need to take more drastic measures.

“If CBP has reliable information that one of their ports is about to get rushed with a mob, or something like that that could put their agents at risk, they could ask us to completely close the port,” Buchanan said. “You understand the importance of commerce at these ports. Nobody in CBP wants to close a port unless they’re actually driven to do so.”

The troop deployment should start trailing off as an engineer and other logistics troops wind down their mission of building base camps and fortifying ports of entry for the Border Patrol.

Army and Marine engineers have now emplaced about 75 per cent of the obstacles they planned to, including concertina wire, shipping containers, and concrete barriers at ports of entry. “Once we get the rest of the obstacles built, we don’t need to keep all those engineers here. As soon as I’m done with a capability, what I intend to do is redeploy it,” Buchanan said. “I don’t want to keep these guys on just to keep them on.”

Logistics troops, too, will be among the first to head home. “I will probably ask to start redeploying some of our logistic capability,” Buchanan predicted. “Now that things are set down here, we don’t need as many troops to actually build base camps and things like that, because the base camps are built.”

Among the troops who will remain after construction engineers and logisticians start departing are helicopter pilots, planners, medical personnel, and smaller “quick response” teams of engineers who can help Border Patrol personnel shut down traffic at their ports of entry.

In contrast to the speed of the deployment in early November and the fanfare surrounding it, the withdrawal promises to be slower and quieter — but Buchanan expects it to be done before Christmas.



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