The Army says there is no timetable for the 5,800 troops at the border being withdrawn, undercutting a general who said Monday that he was beginning to draw down troops this week and expected all of them would be home by mid-December.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is overseeing the deployment, had told Politico that some of the troops have already completed their missions and will soon head home, while the others should wrap up in a couple of weeks.
U.S. Army North contradicted that in a statement later Monday.
“No specific timeline for redeployment has been determined. We will provide more details as they become available,” the command said in a statement.
The command said they may shift troops around, particularly to bolster efforts in California, where thousands of members of the migrant caravan are camped just on the other side of the border in Mexico.
Of the 5,800 troops deployed, 1,500 in Arizona, 1,500 in California and 2,800 in Texas.
President Trump had ordered the deployment, suggesting as many as 15,000 troops would be involved. Instead, officials say the current 5,800 troops are the peak.
They were sent to “harden” the border, adding razor wire and barriers to places that needed a quick plus-up, Homeland Security officials said. Some troops were tasked with flying Border Patrol agents into the field as quick-reaction forces when illegal incursions are detected.
But the troops were not engaged in actual enforcement.
The Pentagon has refused to disclose the cost of the deployment.
Immigrant-rights advocates on Monday denounced the troop commitment and call for a speedy withdrawal.
Ned Price, a former official on President Obama’s National Security Council, pointed to Mr. Trump’s relentless commenting on the caravan ahead of the election, compared to far less presidential oxygen expended after the voting was done.
“It is clear that the deployment was needlessly done to score political points,” he said. “Migrants at the border can be processed orderly and safely as asylum seekers — it’s what we’ve always done. These caravans do not pose the risks that the president claims they do.”
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