Troops Deployed To Southwest Border Begin Withdrawal As Migrant Caravan Arrives

Some of the 5,800 US troops deployed to the southern US border right before the midterm election may be withdrawn as early as this week, however Trump administration officials concerned about ending the mission too soon are set on delaying their departure, according to the Los Angeles Times

The first stage of troop withdrawal would primarily consist of engineering units which have finished their task of installing razor wire and physical obstacles at border crossing points – while the original scope of the mission had authorized a deployment until December 15, unless the Department of Homeland Security requested an extension. 

In a visit last Wednesday to the Texas border town of Donna, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said that troops would be finished installing barriers and other initial tasks within a week to 10 days, although he said additional requests for help from the Department of Homeland Security were expected. –LA Times

That said, if an extension is approved, officials told The Times “the goal is to have all the troops home by Christmas.” 

According to a defense official, officials are discussing whether to grant troops authority to use “proportional” force to protect Border Patrol personnel in the event of violence from the migrants, according to CNN. Troops at the border are currently prohibited from using force except for self-protection. 

A decision to permit troops to provide security to the Border Patrol would represent a significant expansion of their mission.

It could also raise questions about whether the mission is in compliance with a U.S. law that prohibits active troops from engaging in domestic law enforcement functions.

The Pentagon had rejected a similar proposal in internal deliberations before the troops were originally deployed in late October, according to the official, who spoke about the deliberations in return for anonymity. –LA Times

The move comes as thousands of Central American migrants arrive in Tijuana, where the locals are not taking too kindly to their neighbors from the South. The migrants, seeking asylum in the United States, may be stuck in Tijuana for months. 

Tijuana mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has referred to the arrival of so many migrants at once an “avalanche,” and says the city will struggle to take care of them. He calculates that they will remain in the city for at least six months as they go through the process of filing asylum claims. At a rate of around 100 applications per day, US border inspectors won’t be able to process all 3,000 names currently registered in a notebook that the migrants assembled en route.

Along with engineering units, the Pentagon sent military police, helicopter units, logistics, public affairs, a small number of infantry and other types of military specialists to the border. 

The push to begin withdrawing some troops more quickly, as first reported by Politico, comes from US commanders who insist there is no reason to keep the troops away from their families at Thanksgiving once their assigned missions are completed. 

Trump officials, however, may be concerned that a wide-scale withdrawal will fuel criticisms that the deployment was a political stunt designed to drive GOP voters to the polls during midterms. Some Democratic lawmakers have vowed to launch congressional investigations of the operation when they take control of the House in January. 

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