US President Donald Trump says he is ready to deploy up to 15,000 troops in order to repel a large group of immigrants moving through Mexico towards the US, as he hardens his stance against migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
“As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out … We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel, on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
The Trump administration has already started to send 5,200 active duty troops to the border and has identified another 2,000 that could be deployed if needed.
The US National Guard, a reserve military force, currently has 2,100 soldiers on duty at the border and they are authorized to go up to 4,000.
Later on Wednesday, the US Department of Defense released a statement, saying the number of troops was likely to increase over the next few days in order to support US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other government agencies that fight illegal immigration under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“The number of troops deployed will change each day as military forces flow into the operating area, but the initial estimate is that the DOD will have more than 7,000 troops supporting DHS across California, Arizona and Texas,” the Pentagon said.
Senior military officers have defended the deployment — dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot – arguing that it is vital to protecting America’s national security.
United States President Donald Trump has announced his intention to trim down aid given to three Central American nations due to their failure in stopping large immigrant caravan.
Washington has also threatened to cut aid to countries that the immigrants are coming from due to their failure in stopping the caravan.
Trump’s critics insist that he is using the caravan situation to give Republicans a much-needed boost before the congressional midterm elections by stirring anti-immigration sentiments among voters.
While even the Pentagon admits that the deployment is more along the lines of technical support for the US Customs and Border Protection, Trump has tried to convince his base that he is sending the forces to stop potentially dangerous individuals from entering the country.
The Pentagon says the forces will provide government agencies with “a range of assistance, including planning, engineering, transportation, logistics and medical support” at the border.
“Trump is painting a word picture for his political base of troops arrayed along the border to hurl back invaders, when what he is really sending are mechanics, construction workers, planners, supply clerks and pilots who will be planning, building, supplying, flying and repairing,” John Kirby, a military analyst, told CNN.
Trump’s alleged number exceeds the total number of US troops currently serving in Afghanistan, which hovers around 14,000.
Some US military veterans have also criticized Trump for putting extra pressure on a military that is strained by years of wars and budget cuts to advance his political agenda.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has pushed back against the assertion that Trump is playing a campaign trick, telling reporters Wednesday: “We don’t do stunts.”
Some experts have also warned of the unknown cost of the deployment on taxpayers, considering that much smaller deployments of National Guard to the border have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.